Green Bay Rookie Johnathan Franklin lost a key fumble against the Bengals on Sunday. (John Grieshop/Getty Images)
Both the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals turned the ball over four times on Sunday, but the Bengals proved, much to Green Bay's dismay, that the timing of those turnovers can be either fortunate or fatal. And in the Bengals' 34-30 win over the Packers on Sunday, it was the final mistake on the Packers' end that decided a crazy game. With 4:01 left in the fourth quarter, Green Bay decided to run the ball on 4th-and-1 to preserve what was then a 30-27 lead. But rookie back Johnathan Franklin fumbled, and Bengals cornerback Terence Newman returned it 58 yards for the game-deciding touchdown.
“You definitely think you would win the game, no doubt," cornerback Tramon Williams said of the Bengals' four-turnover first half, when Cincinnati blew a 14-point lead to go down, 16-14 at halftime. "When you’re around the game long enough, you see stuff like that happen. It’s crazy. It unfolded the way we didn’t want it to.”
The shame of it was that the fumble overshadowed a 13-carry, 103-yard day for Franklin in his first taste of NFL action. With Eddie Lacy ruled out of the game with a concussion, and James Starks suffering a knee injury just before the half, Franklin was tasked with keeping the offense rolling in a game where Aaron Rodgers was stymied by Cincinnati's tough defense. Rodgers finished with 26 completions in 43 attempts for 244 yards, one touchdown and two picks, but Franklin kept the Packers alive through a second half in which the Bengals eliminated their mistakes and thundered back from a 30-14 third-quarter deficit.
"I’ve got to hold it high and tight,” Franklin said of the play, in which he tried to jump over the pile to get the first down. “I was trying to make a play and everything, and I know the game was on the line right there. I’ve got to get better. I can’t do that.”
The loss moves the Packers to 1-2, while the Bengals are now at 2-1. Green Bay has a week off to think about this one, as well, with a bye before their Oct. 6 game against the Detroit Lions.
“Both teams fought hard, that’s for sure," linebacker A.J. Hawk concluded. "And 1-2 is definitely not where we want to be but we have to take some positives from this as well. We don’t want to lose going into a bye week, especially, but we can definitely go up from here.
"It’s up to us now. I think we have to prove we are high-character guys and have guys who will buckle down and work.”