With 13:58 remaining in the second quarter and Green Bay moving the football -- a disturbingly common theme between the ones Thursday night -- the Packers settle on their own 39-yard line. Rodgers uncharacteristically goes under center with Cincinnati showing a nickel defense. Terence Newman is covering James Jones with Reggie Nelson cheating to that side.
Rodgers completed his short drop and angled the football down the right sidelines, targeting Jones. Terence Newman, with a Madden awareness of 100, turned as Rodgers released the football, positioning himself for the routine pop up and grasping the underthrown pass at Cincinnati's 45-yard line. Avoiding a tackle with an escort down the sidelines, Newman returned the interception 30 yards to Green Bay's 25-yard line.
Now Cincinnati has an opportune moment to not only reduce the scoring deficit, they can capitalize on the momentum established during their previous drive that resulted in a 42-yard Mike Nugent field goal.
On first down Andy Dalton pump fakes to A.J. Green to the left, hoping that the Packers secondary bites to generate separation for Green, and then completes his drop. Pressure from rookie linebacker Dezmon Moses forces Dalton to target Green down the left sidelines anyway. Not only did Tramon Williams have inside position, the pass was underthrown and easily deflected -- though it's the type of pass that Green has hauled in before.
Cedric Peerman only gained three yards on the following play (backside blitz from safety Anthony Levine was unblocked and made the tackle), setting up a third and seven with 13:07 remaining in the first half. Dalton takes the shotgun with an empty backfield. Brandon Tate is in the slot to the left, running a quick hitch over the middle.
Tate's route finds a gap in the coverage which Dalton quickly recognizes. Tate completes the pass and picks up ten yards and the first down. Unfortunately Dalton once again risked an interception on a blind instinct to throw the football to A.J. Green, running a slow vertical near the front left pylon with cornerback Tramon Williams matching him step-for-step with solid inside position. Underthrown and incomplete.
We have a bad feeling that this instinct to throw a jump ball to Green could hurt Cincinnati this year. On the following play, Armon Binns stood in the slot, to the right of Andrew Hawkins on second down from Green Bay's 12-yard line. Sprinting upfield Binns shifted gently to his left before cutting inside. Andy Dalton somehow saw enough room for Binns, between a triangle of defenders inside the five-yard line, managing to squeeze the football for the completion to the one-yard line. There was a holy moly said somewhere.
Feeling of joy and encouragement neared an explode into a righteous high fives. Cincinnati has a first down on Green Bay's one-yard line. What's there not to be excited about.
After a fake handoff that earned Cedric Peerman a murderous collision for his role, Dalton looks left to full back James Develin. Nothing. Orson Charles ran into the end zone, trying to break in, but ran into an area on the field covered by two defenders.
By now Packers linebacker Erik Walden recovered from his plastering Peerman act during the fake, that it forced Andy Dalton into the decision to throw it away. Did the replacement officials worry about the health of its quarterbacks in the league when Walden took 3-4 steps after Dalton released the football before knocking him down? Ugh.
Cincinnati tried running the football on second down from the one.
Walden stuffed Develin at the point of attack on the left, clogging the lane that Cedric Peerman was targeting. For some reason Peerman became indecisive, bouncing right, left, right before lowering his body for the two-yard tackle by at least five Packers defenders. Blame everyone all you want. You can't sit behind the line of scrimmage when all 11 defensive players are within ten yards of you. You barely have enough time to run north and south in this league, especially during goalline situations. Patience won't win this battle.
Dalton was sacked on third down, which one can attribute to being the quarterback's fault. Everyone on the offensive line is assigned a defender, leaving linebacker Walden (he's starting to piss me off) unblocked with a free shot.
One could ask why didn't Whitworth block him? Whitworth was presented with a choice, dealing with two blitzers, one on his inside and one on his outside. Linemen are taught that if they're presented with a similar scenario, block the inside guy first that's the guy with the shortest path to reach the quarterback. But in truth Dalton should have recognized, at the very least, realize that without help in the backfield, this play wasn't going anywhere. There were no hot routes, therefore no hot reads made. At best Dalton should have thrown it through the back of the end zone (they never call that grounding) or change the call before the snap.
Either way the Bengals lose an opportunity to score a red zone touchdown, instead relying on a 30-yard field goal from Mike Nugent.