Packers are Kings of Failed Comeback Drives

When the Bengals took the lead with 3:47 to go, they had the Packers right where they wanted them: with the ball in Aaron Rodgers' hands and the game on the line. Two batted-down passes finished off the Packers, and an opportunity was missed when Rodgers didn't see a wide-open receiver.

Aaron Rodgers owns the highest passer rating of any quarterback in NFL history and has scored more points per start than any quarterback, as well. He owns a Super Bowl ring and a league MVP award.

Still, when the Bengals surged ahead with a defensive touchdown with about 4 minutes to go on Sunday, they had the Green Bay Packers right where they wanted them: with the ball in Rodgers' hands with the game on the line.

Right or wrong, quarterbacks are judged by two things: their success in the playoffs and their performance in clutch situations. In the clutch, Rodgers has fallen short an impossibly high number of times considering his prolific production.

According to FootballOutsiders.com's Scott Kacsmar, Rodgers is 5-24 when trailing in the fourth quarter (by one to eight points at any point in the fourth quarter) and 9-26 when he has the ball with a chance to win the game (ties and overtime are included in that stat).

Despite much more limited resumes, Andy Dalton (six) and Matt Cassel (six) have more fourth-quarter comeback wins than Rodgers. John Skelton, who is out of the league, had six game-winning drives in 2011 alone. Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson, who were rookies last season, have five apiece.

And if that's hard to believe, there's this: According to Kacsmar's research, Rodgers entered this season with an 0-18 record when trailing in the fourth quarter to teams that finished their seasons .500 or better. That record is unofficially 0-20 now, though in theory the wheels could fall off the wagons in San Francisco and Cincinnati.

Brian Hoyer, Jake Locker and Ryan Tannehill — not exactly a murderer's row of quarterbacks — threw game-winning touchdown passes in the final minute of their games on Sunday.

Football, of course, is a team game. Rodgers led the Packers from behind in the fourth quarter against San Francisco, only for the defense to cough it up. Rodgers and the offense went three-and-out on the ensuing possession. The defense and special teams have ruined several of his comebacks.

Still, that comeback stat is an unsightly black eye for Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy. Not only have the Packers been a bad come-from-behind team, but they're 21-24 in games decided by one score (eight points or less) since Rodgers took over as quarterback in 2008.

On Sunday, the same unhappy ending had a new plot twist. The Packers are the league's ultimate assassins, with a 38-8 record in games decided by more than one score. After reeling off 30 consecutive points, Green Bay led 30-14 with 20 1/2 minutes to go.

This time, however, the Packers couldn't seal the deal. The Bengals' offense, practically comatose since the opening touchdown drive, blew through Green Bay's defense to make it 30-21. Rodgers threw interceptions on consecutive drives. The second one was a big one, with Green Bay driving for at least a field goal but Cincinnati instead taking advantage with a 95-yard touchdown drive to make it 30-27.

The Packers hadn't had three giveaways in a regular-season game since December 2010 but made it three in as many possessions on Johnathan Franklin's killer fumble.

Still, the Packers had a chance with 3:47 on the clock and two timeouts in their pocket.

By the two-minute warning, Green Bay had almost gotten midfield and still had the two timeouts. On third-and-8, Rodgers threw essentially a receiver screen to Jeremy Ross, who ran for the first down and out of bounds at the 43 with 1:50 to go. A perfect back-shoulder throw and big-time catch by Jordy Nelson gained 18, getting the Packers to the 25 with 1:40 to play.

But that's where the drive stalled. On first down, Rodgers went deep to James Jones but the ball was thrown so poorly that perhaps he was throwing it away. Before the snap, safety Taylor Mays backed off into deep coverage to help take away Jones, leaving Ross covered by defensive end Michael Johnson. It's a gain of at least 10 yards.

A gain of 5 to Nelson set up third-and-5 from the 20. Carlos Dunlap knocked the pass down, thwarting what would have been a first down to Randall Cobb, who was open at the marker against George Iloka. On fourth down, the 6-foot-7 Johnson beat left tackle David Bakhtiari's cut block to knock down a pass to Jones. Cornerback Adam Jones had good coverage but a good ball by Rodgers would have resulted in a first down.

Instead, the game was over and McCarthy, Rodgers and the rest of the Packers will have an extra week to stew over yet another failure in a close game.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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