Nine days after a dominating performance against the Atlanta Falcons, the Packers played as if it was the first week of training camp rather than final preparations for the regular season opener against the Chicago Bears. Green Bay was defenseless and careless against Carson Palmer and the Bengals, falling behind 31-0 and eventually losing, 48-17, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
Worse yet, the game was delayed for 40 minutes in the fourth quarter due to lightning in the Cincinnati area. The Packers will finish their first preseason under Mike McCarthy Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. against the Tennessee Titans at Lambeau Field.
Cincinnati scored on all five of its possessions and also scored a touchdown with its defense en route to a 34-7 halftime lead. Palmer, who played for the first time this preseason on his surgically repaired left knee, completed 9 of 14 passes for 140 yards and three touchdowns.
"It was just business as usual," Palmer said. "It was just fun to get the ball into the hands of the play-makers on the team, get the ball in their hands and let them run."
The Bengals (3-0 in the preseason) took a 7-0 lead on safety Dexter Jackson's 45-yard fumble return for a touchdown 2 minutes, 31 seconds into the game and the rout was on. Brett Favre, who completed 12 of 25 passes for 162 yards in the game, lost the ball as he was about to throw. Jackson, who was blitzing on the play, scooped it up, dropped it, and scooped it up again on his way to the end zone.
From that point on, the game got out of hand for the Packers. On the next possession Favre's pass over the middle on third-and-15 went off Donald Driver's hands to safety Madieu Williams, who returned the interception 29 yards. Williams' return set up a 38-yard Shayne Graham field goal.
Jon Ryan's 30-yard punt and a holding penalty on Rob Davis gave the Bengals a first down on Green Bay's 38-yard line. Seven plays later Cincinnati had a 17-0 lead on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Palmer to tight end Reggie Kelly.
"Everything that happened tonight, we played a big part in doing it ourselves," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "We need to get it fixed quickly."
The epitome of Green Bay's evening came on Palmer's 33-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The Bengals wide receiver caught a pass in the left flat against cornerback Charles Woodson, then made safety Marquand Manuel whiff at an attempted tackle, and tight-roped the left sideline as linebacker Nick Barnett and cornerback Ahmad Carroll collided with each other while in pursuit. The touchdown capped a 90-yard drive as the Bengals used a no-huddle offense, leaving the Packers gasping for air.
"It was good to see a no-huddle offense," Packers linebacker Nick Barnett said. "That's something we need to prepare for so it was good to see that look in the preseason. We had a lot of mental mistakes tonight and we need to be able to play through a no-huddle like that when you're out of air."
Green Bay answered with three plays and a false start before being forced to punt. Palmer completed the first half with a seven-play, 65-yard TD drive, capped by a 15-yard touchdown pass to Tab Perry to make it 31-0.
The Packers finally got on the board in the final two minutes of the half as Favre converted a fourth-and-10 with a 35-yard pass to Driver to the Bengals' 21. That set up a 17-yard touchdown pass, also to Driver, who made a diving catch and kept his feet in bounds on the left side of the end zone.
The Bengals recovered the ensuing onside kick and quarterback Anthony Wright drove the Bengals 24 yards, setting up a 34-yard field goal by Graham with 2 seconds left in the half.
Dave Rayner's 30-yard field goal closed the Packers to 34-10, but Cincinnati stretched their lead to 41-10 on Wright's 25-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Bennie Brazell, who beat cornerback Mike Hawkins on a post pattern.
Lightning struck in a couple of ways for the Packers early in the fourth quarter. A 50-yard pass interference penalty off a bomb from backup quarterback Aaron Rodgers' to wide receiver Corey Rodgers gave the Packers the ball on Cincinnati's 3-yard line with 9:09 left in the game. Officials then called both teams off the field because of lightning. When play resumed, Samkon Gado scored on a one-yard plunge to make it, 41-17, and cap an 8-play, 71-yard drive.