Traveling to Lambeau Field for a game against the Green Bay Packers is never an easy proposition. But the task becomes even more daunting when you are a Cincinnati Bengals team that has dropped its first two games of the season on its own turf.
Cincinnati will try to find the formula for success that has eluded so many others when traveling to Green Bay on Sunday, September 24, 2017 for a 4:25 p.m. showdown.
Green Bay comes into the contest fresh off a 34-23 road dismantling by the Atlanta Falcons that saw its record drop to 1-1. It also put an end to the initial optimism generated by its 17-9 win over Seattle in the Packers’ home opener.
Cincinnati, with a record of 0-2, tries to join a list of 27 other teams since 1990 who began the season at 0-2 and went on to make the playoffs. The 2003 Philadelphia Eagles are the only team in NFL history to do so after losing its first two games at home.
Sunday will mark the 13th meeting between the two teams, with the Bengals claiming victories the last three times the teams have met. All three games have been close, with the Bengals winning in Cincinnati by a 34-30 score in 2013, the last time these two teams played. The Bengals prevailed in Green Bay by a 31-24 margin in 2009 and won in Cincinnati in 2005, 21-14.
Probably the most memorable of those affairs was the 2013 contest, a game that saw the Bengals offense overcome a sloppy performance that included four turnovers and the failure to record a first down from the three-minute mark of the first quarter until early in the fourth.
Cincinnati’s defense, meanwhile, led by Vontaze Burfict, held Green Bay to 100 yards of total offense in the first half, including one of seven on third down. The Packers still managed to lead by a 30-14 margin midway through the third quarter before interceptions by Terence Newman and Leon Hall and an A.J. Green touchdown reception helped close the gap to 30-27.
The Packers, attempting to run out the clock, faced a 3rd-and-12 from the Bengals 41-yard-line with just over four minutes remaining. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit Randall Cobb for what appeared to be a first down, but a Marvin Lewis challenge left Green Bay facing fourth-and-one with four minutes left.
Green Bay went for it, and running back Johnathan Franklin fumbled short of the sticks. Cincinnati’s Reggie Nelson recovered and lost the ball six yards into his return. The Bengals’ Terence Newman scooped up the loose ball up in stride and returned it 58 yards for the deciding touchdown.
Struggle has been the word of the day for the Bengals’ offense in 2017. Against the Baltimore Ravens on opening day, Cincinnati turned the ball over five times, including four interceptions, and quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked five times. Dalton had a little more success against Houston and committed no turnovers. But he was still sacked three times in the first half, and the result was another loss.
The Bengals now have a new offensive coordinator in Bill Lazor and hope to be able to get A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert more involved. Those two, along with the addition of John Ross and more consistency in a running game led by Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, hope to get Cincinnati into the win column for the first time.
Cincinnati’s defense has continued to be a bright spot, although one big play in each of the first two games contributed mightily to the losing efforts. Against Baltimore, it was a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin.
And, against Houston, it was a 49-yard touchdown scamper by rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson that spelled the difference between victory and defeat. Those type of plays cannot happen if the Bengals hope to pull off the upset at Green Bay.
In the Packers’ loss to the Falcons Sunday, Green Bay lost receivers Jordy Nelson and Cobb to injury, and its offensive line gave up three sacks and seven hits on Rodgers. Even so, Rodgers has managed to put together an 88.8 quarterback rating through two games while leading the NFL in completion with 61 and attempts with 92. He has also been sacked seven times with 16 hurries and has thrown for three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Green Bay has struggled to establish a running game so far this season. Ty Montgomery has managed only 89 yards rushing on 29 carries, an average of 3.1 yards per carry. But he also has recorded 10 receptions for 114 yards and has three total touchdowns already.
On defense, the Packers are led by defensive tackle Mike Daniels, who had 1.5 sacks and seven total tackles in the season-opening win against the Seahawks. But Daniels is likely out due to a hip injury he suffered on the first series of the Atlanta game. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews is not the sack artist he once was, but is still a player the Bengals need to account for.
Rookie cornerback Kevin King, a teammate of John Ross at the University of Washington, as well as the player the Packers took with the first pick of the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, will probably draw the unenviable assignment of trying to cover Green this Sunday, which should open up some opportunities for the Bengals’ offense to finally get on the scoreboard.