ReFo: Packers @ Bengals, Week 3
This matchup between the Packers and Bengals ended up being a game of who could make the least mistakes. It was an uncharacteristically poor performance from Aaron Rodgers who threw multiple interceptions for the first time in 40 odd games. Injuries at running back also forced the Packers to go with rookie Jonathan Franklin and, while he played well, he made a crucial mistake when he fumbled on fourth down in Bengals’ territory. Cincinnati’s Terrence Newman was able to scoop up the loose ball and take it in for a touchdown to give the Bengals a lead late in the fourth quarter.
It was somewhat fortunate for the Bengals that their defense gave them the lead. Andy Dalton does not exactly inspire confidence, and that was no different in this game. While he’s still young and developing, one would hope to see signs of improvement against pressure and better ball security when the pocket breaks down. As for the Cincinnati defense, Michael Johnson, Leon Hall, and Adam Jones all stood out, but otherwise it was a quiet day for the group. Here are some performances of interest.
Green Bay – Three Performances of Note
Franklin Flashes but Fumbles
When James Starks went down, with Eddie Lacy already out, the Packers were forced to turn to UCLA product Jonathan Franklin. He showed good burst, vision, and elusiveness but ultimately coughed up the fumble that directly gave the Bengals the lead. Despite that crucial mistake, he grading positively (+2.0) and produced in every facet of the game. As a runner, he produced 103 yards on just 13 carries, with 75 of those yards coming after contact. Franklin also had five missed tackles. On one run (Q3, 6:45) he made Reggie Nelson look silly with a great cut that took him into the open field and down the sideline for a big gain. As a receiver he caught all three targets for 23 yards and one first down. Finally, in pass protection, he was perfect in 12 blocks.
2012 undrafted free agent Don Barclay looks to have really improved in his second year as a pro. That’s fortunate for the Packers considering Bryan Bulaga is out due to injury and Marshall Newhouse was benched. Barclay now has a +6.5 grade on the year and has been especially good in pass protection. He faced one of the league’s better pass rushers in Carlos Dunlap and still did a really good job. In 54 pass blocks, he gave up just the solitary sack and even that play (Q2, 1:18) Barclay was able to maintain hands on the Bengals’ defensive end to at least give Rodgers a chance. It was more of a mixed bag in the run game where he made a terrible attempt at blocking Dunlap on one run play to the outside which resulted in a tackle four yards into the backfield. But aside from that he only graded negatively once, doing a good job on linebackers Rey Maualaga and Vontaze Burfict, as well as showing the ability to widen holes aimed off his inside shoulder. His highlight saw him put Dunlap on the ground with one such block (Q3, 12:46). Barclay is now tied for eighth in our Pass Blocking Efficiency rankings with a score of 96.3.
Sam Shields vs. A.J. Green
Sam Shields drew the unenviable task of covering A.J. Green for the entire game Sunday. He acquitted himself well. Shields (+1.8) gave up four of seven targets for 46 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. His interception came late in the first quarter where he covered Green perfectly on a comeback, and stepped in front to come up with the big play. Things got a little trickier after that, as he allowed three first downs and a touchdown. The TD came on a nine route where Shields just slightly missed his jam and allowed Green the step he needed to get into the endzone on a 20-yard score. However, Shields otherwise kept everything in front of him (6.6 yard average), and came up to make the sure tackle when he did allow a reception (just eight yards after the catch). He also graded positively on the three other targets, displaying close coverage on two other fly routes and a comeback. Shields also made a positive contribution in the run game, coming up to tackle Giovanni Bernard after a short gain in the first.
Cincinnati – Three Performances of Note
Same Old Story with Gresham
Jermaine Gresham (-3.1) makes the kind of mistakes that must make coaches want to tear their hair out. His effort on running plays is pitiful, and his fumble against the Packers nearly proved costly. Overall, he allowed three defensive stops, the most egregious coming with 13:13 to play in the fourth quarter when he allowed A.J. Hawk inside him for a tackle around the line of scrimmage. Gresham’s attempt at cutting Brad Jones on a run with 6:32 to play in the second quarter was also pitiful. As a receiver he was just too casual with the football on his fumble and overall had just four completions on five targets for 27 yards. The frustrating part is his talent is obvious on plays where he’s able to break tackles and pick up first downs (Q1, 13:19) but consistency is such a big question mark.
Johnson on Fire
Michael Johnson (+7.1) has had a simply incredible start to the season. This was his third game with a grade higher than +8.1, as David Bakhtiari simply had no answer for the Bengal defensive end’s repertoire of moves. Overall Johnson had two sacks, two hits, and a hurry to go along with a batted pass on fourth down inside of two minutes which sealed the game for Cincinnati. His pressure predominantly came on inside moves, but it was the speed at which he got around T.J. Lang (Q3, 13:18) to apply the hit when he came across to try to pull block him which stood out. Aside from the pressure, he was disruptive in the run game all day long, registering three defensive stops. He also came up with the crucial play on Franklin’s fumble on fourth down as he drove inside the right tackle and got his head on the football.
Hall in Fine Form
Leon Hall (+4.0) had another top game against the Packers. It was predominantly his work in coverage (+4.8) that secured him such a good grade. He gave up just three completions on seven targets for 21 yards and an interception. When targeting him, Rodgers had just a 10.7 QB rating. The Packers were unable to pick up a single first down when targeting him, as he blanketed Randall Cobb. Hall’s interception (Q4, 13:48) was a thing of beauty as he ran stride for stride with Cobb on an out-and-up and had the ball placed right on him by Rodgers. He also made an impressive hit on the dangerous slot receiver mid-way through the first quarter forcing an incompletion. While his coverage was impressive, Hall could have done better in the run game (-0.9). The main reason for the negative grade was a missed tackle on Franklin in the fourth quarter.
– Quiet day for Geno Atkins who had just a solitary hurry on 48 rushes.
– James Harrison got just five of 81 defensive snaps.
– The Packers got as many sacks (five) as they had hurries.
PFF Game Ball
I’m sort of tempted to give this to Shields for doing a great job on Green, but Johnson simply made too many impact plays and made his presence felt snap after snap so it’s impossible to look past him.
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