Published September 23, 2013
CINCINNATI – Leon Hall has already given this one a special place in his ranking of weirdness.
The Cincinnati Bengals rallied for a 34-30 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday when cornerback Terence Newman returned a fumble — actually, a fumble of a fumble — 58 yards for a touchdown with 3:47 to go.
How strange was it?
"There's been a lot of crazy games since I've been here," said Hall, in his seventh season. "But that one's up there. Top three."
Each team turned the ball over four times. Each team returned a fumble for a touchdown — M.D. Jennings ran one back for Green Bay (1-2). The Bengals blew a 14-point lead, and the Packers let a 16-point lead get away in the second half. Green Bay scored 30 consecutive points and lost.
The Bengals (2-1) finished it off when Michael Johnson batted down Aaron Rodgers' fourth-down pass at the Cincinnati 20 with 1:21 left.
It was the first time in 14 years that a team won after allowing its opponent to score 30 consecutive points. The Bengals became the first team in NFL history to lead by 14, then trail by 16 and come back to win, according to STATS.
"Crazy," Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said.
Five things we learned from a wild one:
1. DON'T LET GO OF THE BALL: They all know that, of course. But on Sunday, it was tough not to do it. The Packers had only 16 turnovers last season, second-best in the NFL, but Rodgers was picked off twice and Green Bay fumbled twice. A fumble on a kickoff helped the Bengals score two touchdowns in 12 seconds. The last fumble decided the game. Rookie running back Johnathan Franklin was stripped on a fourth-and-1 run, safety Reggie Nelson picked it up and then fumbled, and Newman got it and took it the rest of the way.
"We learned some valuable lessons and survived one today that you don't survive very often," coach Marvin Lewis said.
2. CINCINNATI'S DEFENSE IS FIRST-RATE: The Bengals shut down Pittsburgh's mess of an offense in a 20-10 win on Monday night at Paul Brown Stadium. With its cornerbacks banged up and only five days to prepare, they contained one of the NFL's most high-powered offenses even though Rodgers had the advantage of four Cincinnati turnovers. Rodgers was 26 of 43 for 244 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions, four sacks and numerous passes tipped away, including that final one.
"It shows how well our defense played," said Bengals QB Andy Dalton, who was 20 of 28 for 235 yards with two touchdowns, an interception and a fumble. "They had great field position, with all the turnovers we had."
3. FOURTH-QUARTER PACKING IT IN: Coach Mike McCarthy wanted the Packers to play a solid fourth quarter for the first time this season. Instead, Green Bay came apart at the end. The Packers also flubbed chances during an opening loss at San Francisco, and let Washington rally at the end of Green Bay's second-week win. They had their worst finish on Sunday, blowing a 30-14 lead in the second half.
"We've lost two games in the fourth quarter, which is what we emphasized," McCarthy said. "This team will grow from it."
4. THE PACK CAN RUN ... IF ANYONE'S HEALTHY: During an upcoming bye week, the Packers have to figure out who's going to carry the ball.
Eddie Lacy was inactive on Sunday because of a concussion. James Starks ran for 55 yards in the first half before injuring a knee. Franklin ran for 103 yards and a touchdown in the second half before limping off during the final series.
During a 38-20 win over Washington a week earlier, Starks took over for the injured Lacy and ran for 132 yards, ending Green Bay's streak of 45 games without a 100-yard rusher. Now, they have back-to-back games with a 100-yard rusher.
5. STRANGE THINGS HAPPEN TO THE PACK AT PBS: Green Bay has played only one other game at Paul Brown Stadium, and that one had a bizarre finish, too. A fan ran onto the field and snatched the ball out of Brett Favre's hands during a closing drive, allowing the Bengals defense to regroup and hold on for a 21-14 win in 2005.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org