Packers bumble in jungle, lose to Bengals

Green Bay had little room for error Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, but the Packers exceeded that slim margin with too many mistakes to overcome and lost another game that was very winnable. Penalties, poor clock management and a meltdown by Brett Favre in the final seconds didn't help the Packers, whose season continues to spin out of control.

Favre was intercepted a career-high five times, including four in the second half, and the Bengals held off a late Green Bay rally for a 21-14 victory Sunday in Cincinnati. The Packers, who lost running back Ahman Green (thigh) for the season last week in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings and starting wide receiver Robert Ferguson for at least two games with a knee injury, slipped to 1-6. The loss also dropped Green Bay three games behind the NFC North Division-leading Chicago Bears, who beat the Detroit Lions 19-13 in overtime.

"We're close and the guys are working hard," Packers coach Mike Sherman said. "The guys battled tooth and nail the entire ballgame, but we came up short. We're tired of coming up short. We've got to do something so it doesn't happen again. Injuries are not a reason why we didn't win today. We turned the ball over too many times on offense and we couldn't get off the field on third down. It's as simple as that. Injuries had nothing to do with it today." The Packers hung with the Bengals, who improved to 6-2 in the AFC North Division, for most of the game. But Favre, who hadn't thrown an interception since Oct. 3 at Carolina, was intercepted on four straight possessions between the third and fourth quarters.

Favre's five interceptions are the most in his career and most by a Green Bay quarterback since Don Majkowski was picked off five times Oct. 14, 1990 in a loss to Tampa Bay.

Despite the interceptions, the Bengals only scored seven points off the take-aways mainly because of a solid defensive performance by the Packers. The Packers held Bengals star receiver Chad Johnson out of the end zone. Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer passed for 222 yards and three touchdowns, but only one touchdown in the second half - a 27-yard pass to fullback Jeremi Johnson early in the fourth quarter. The winning touchdown came one play after Favre's fifth interception of the game.

The Packers got the ball back with about a minute left at their own 10. Thanks to a questionable 48-yard pass interference penalty on Bengals safety Ifeanyi Ohalete against wide receiver Andrae Thurman, Green Bay moved to Cincinnati's 47 with 48 seconds remaining. Favre followed with a 19-yard pass to wide receiver Antonio Chatman to the Bengals 28. After a fan ran onto the field, grabbing the ball from Favre and stopping the clock, Favre was sacked on the next play by defensive end Duane Clemons for a loss of two yards to the 30. With less than 10 seconds on the clock, Favre faked a spike before taking off on the left side and hurling a pass to tight end Bubba Franks as time expired. Favre was penalized for an illegal forward pass, sealing the Bengals' win.

"We were running out of time and he was being Brett," said Sherman. "We have done that before, but we were going to 'clock' the play right there. As he looked at the clock, I think he didn't think there was a whole lot of time left and he improvised on that one."

The Packers pulled to within 21-14 on Favre's one-yard touchdown to Franks with 3:11 left in the game. The Packers marched 88 yards on 13 plays, but used 5:17 and did not utilize a hurry-up, or no-huddle offense at any point in the drive.

With they didn't turn the ball over, the Packers showed that they could move the ball against the Bengals. The Packers finished with 364 yards of offense. Favre finished with 290 yards passing, completing 27 of 40 passes and two touchdowns. Tony Fisher, who started in place of Green, finished with 51 yards rushing on 17 attempts. The Packers had 76 total rushing yards.

Chatman, starting in place of Ferguson, led the Packers with eight catches for 97 yards. Donald Driver had five catches for 76 yards, and Franks eight catches for 73 yards.

Cincinnati scored on drives of 60 and 73 yards in the first half to take a 14-7 halftime lead. Four of Green Bay's five first-half penalties helped keep both Bengals drives alive. It also helped that the Bengals converted 7 of 8 attempts on third down and led the Packers in time of possession 18:40 to 11:20.

The Packers were getting in position to possibly tie the game late in the second quarter when Favre was intercepted for the first time in the contest. Bengals right defensive end Robert Geathers tipped Favre's screen pass, and the ball bounced into the hands of linebacker Odell Thurman at the Bengals' 43. Cincinnati moved to Green Bay's 30, but wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh was unable to get out of bounds near Green Bay's 10 yard line after catching a pass from Palmer and time expired.

Palmer, the league's second-rated passer, threw his second touchdown pass of the first half when he hit Houshmandzadeh over the middle with a seven-yard pass as the Bengals took a 14-7 lead. The Packers' defense was penalized three times in the drive. Joey Thomas' holding penalty on third down negated Palmer's incomplete pass and gave the Bengals new life at Green Bay's 48.

The Bengals converted all three of their third downs on the first drive of the game, moving 60 yards on 11 plays, and took a 7-0 lead on Palmer's four-yard pass to running back Chris Perry. Palmer's 12-yard pass to tight end Matt Schobel to the Packers' 10 put the Bengals in position to score.

Fisher's 1-yard plunge with 9:35 left in the second quarter helped the Packers tie the game at 7-7. Favre was as picture-perfect as the day at Paul Brown Stadium, completing 5 of 6 passes in the drive for 50 yards, including a 21-yard pass over the middle to Franks to the Bengals 7.

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