GREEN BAY, Wis. – Watching the clock about to tick down to 0:02, Aaron Rodgers took the snap, faked a spike and looked to the end zone.
For a split second, it looked like the Cincinnati Bengals were about to blow their second last-minute lead in as many weeks – and Rodgers was about to pull off his second late comeback of the season.
But the Bengals (1-1) were bailed out by a false-start penalty and barely salvaged a 31-24 victory over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
“We didn’t do enough to win the game last week and you get what you deserve,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “Today, we were able to make one or two more plays and win the football game and that’s what counts. I think our football team understands that.”
One week after a gut-wrenching last-minute loss to Denver on a deflected pass that went for a touchdown in their opener, the Bengals nearly outdid themselves by blowing a 10-point lead in the final minute Sunday.
The Packers (1-1) kicked a late field goal to cut the lead to a touchdown, then recovered an onside kick.
“The crowd cheered and I was like, ‘Come on, now,”‘ linebacker Rey Maualuga said. “It was kind of deja vu all over again. But with the defence out there, everyone holding their ground, we did a great job.”
Rodgers then marched the Packers to the Cincinnati 10-yard line with the clock running down, but Green Bay was called for the false start to end the game. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said officials told him the call was on wide receiver Greg Jennings.
“I was surprised by that, to say the least,” McCarthy said.
The Bengals were cruising to a win until then, breaking a 21-all tie when Chad Ochocinco caught a 13-yard TD pass from Carson Palmer in the third quarter and delivered on his promise to perform a “Lambeau leap.”
Ochocinco ran toward the stands and spotted a small group of fans in Bengals orange in the front row near the end zone, then leaped into them – just like players from the home team do after they score.
“It was fun,” Ochocinco said. “I had a little indecision on where to jump at first. I didn’t want to disrespect their tradition, so I was asking as I went along the line. I saw some Bengals fans that said it was OK.”
Defensive end Antwan Odom tied a single-game team mark with five sacks, four of which came after Packers left tackle Chad Clifton injured his ankle and was carted off early in the third quarter.
Pass protection also was an issue in the Packers’ Week 1 victory over Chicago.
“He’s a good player,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “But we’ve got to protect better, myself included.”
Rodgers couldn’t pull off another comeback after beating the Bears on a late touchdown pass to Jennings last Sunday. Rodgers was 21-of-39 for 261 yards and a touchdown and Jennings was held without a catch.
Cedric Benson rushed for 141 yards for the Bengals, and wondered afterward if the Packers came into Sunday’s game overconfident.
“Maybe a little, but you can’t blame them,” Benson said. “They beat a very stout Bears team last week at home and I think they were feeling pretty good. But we’re men on this side of the football as well.”
Palmer was 15-of-23 for 185 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, both by Green Bay’s Charles Woodson. Woodson returned one 37 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
But that was about the only highlight of a disappointing day for the Packers’ defence.
“For whatever reason, it wasn’t there,” Woodson said. “We just couldn’t get stops.”
Palmer blamed himself for the interceptions, and said he had confidence in the defence in the final minute.
“I kind of felt like it couldn’t happen again,” Palmer said. “It wasn’t a feeling of ‘here we go again’ at all. I know our defence is too good. They have too much pride and weren’t going to let that happen again.”
NOTES: Clifton hurt his ankle and was carted off the field on the Packers’ first possession of the second half. McCarthy classified the injury as a sprain after the game. … Already without injured starting safety Atari Bigby, the Packers lost Nick Collins to a shoulder injury in the second quarter after a collision with teammate Johnny Jolly.