5 takeaways from Bengals overtime loss to Packers

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals rookie kicker Evan McPherson thought the officials were messing with him when they called his overtime field goal no good. The ball hit the flag at the top of the left upright, and it was a surprise to him that it went wide.

Instead of McPherson delivering his third game-winning field goal, it was Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby celebrating at the end of a wild battle between them and perhaps the wind.

Crosby missed three field goals that could have won the game, but finally, his 49-yarder with 1:55 left in overtime delivered the Packers a 25-22 win Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. McPherson had won two games for the Bengals (3-2) earlier this year, including one in overtime.

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Here are five takeaways from the loss:

1. Offense struggled to find rhythm

The Bengals scored first but otherwise got off to yet another slow start to the game, going three and out on four of their first five drives. Some big plays helped Cincinnati come back after the Packers took the lead with 16 straight points in the second quarter.

Ja’Marr Chase scored on a 70-yard touchdown catch after making safety Darnell Savage whiff at the 25-yard line, and that cut the Bengals’ deficit down to 16-14 going into halftime. After the Packers added a pair of field goals in the third and fourth quarters, the Bengals rallied with a scoring drive that included big third-down coaches from Chase and Tee Higgins before Joe Mixon ran the ball in from 8 yards out. Higgins caught the two-point conversion pass from Burrow to tie the game with 3:27 left.

“We made plays when we needed to,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “There were some lulls there in the first half when we were just trying to get a first down and couldn’t quite get in that rhythm. … In the second half, it seemed like we had much longer possessions and kind of got in a flow and called the game the way we wanted to.”

Burrow wasn’t at his best, though. He threw interceptions on the opening drives of the second half and overtime and finished with 281 yards and two touchdowns.

The second-year quarterback was hit hard in the second quarter at the end of a long scramble and drew attention lying flat on his back on the field before popping up and jogging off on his own. He got checked out in the medical tent and appeared fine but after the game went to the hospital to be evaluated for a throat contusion that might have been related to that hit.

Chase said he didn’t notice anything wrong when he spoke to Burrow after the game, and the Bengals said it was precautionary.

2. Crazy day for kickers

Crosby and McPherson combined to miss five straight field goals at the end of the game, all of which would have been game-winners, before Crosby finally made one.

The Packers kicker had missed a 36-yarder with about two minutes left, McPherson hit the upright on a 57-yard attempt with 21 seconds remaining, and then Crosby sent a 51-yard attempt wide as time expired to end regulation before also missing a 40-yard try on the Packers’ first drive of overtime. All of his misses were wide left. Crosby was 4-for-7 on field goals and 1-for-2 on PATs after only missing two field goals over the past two seasons combined.

McPherson had thought his overtime kick was good and had already started celebrating with holder Kevin Huber.

“I didn’t really feel like (the wind) was right to left, and so I thought there was no chance I was missing left,” McPherson said. “If anything, I thought the wind was blowing left to right, so I guess when the ball turned left, it kind of caught me off guard. And honestly, I thought the refs were playing a game with us when I looked down there and they were doing the no-good motion. Honestly thought they were playing a game because I struck it really well and I was real confident that it was going in.”

3. Conservative play-calling or faith in McPherson?

It was no surprise the Bengals had enough faith in McPherson to trot him out for those field goal attempts, as Taylor had said recently he could see them trying a 68-yarder with him at some point.

But, Taylor could have been more aggressive with the play-calling and gone for one or both of those. The one in the fourth quarter was on a fourth-and-2 after Samaje Perine’s run of 3 yards. In overtime, it was a fourth-and-inches situation after Mixon was stopped on third-and-2.

“It was going toward the city, and that’s the side we felt a little better toward in pregame with the little bit of wind that we had,” Taylor said when asked about the 57-yard attempt. “We’ve got a lot of faith in Evan from those distances. There were some runs there before those kicks, just because, as you guys have seen, you don’t want to get knocked out of field goal range with anything silly that can happen. We’ve just got a lot of faith in him going both ways. We’ve got a lot of faith in Evan, and we’ll continue to do that going forward. That second one almost went over the uprights. It hit the top of the upright there from however many yards out. He’s got a strong leg, and we believe in him. He’s going to hit a lot of those.”

Chase said in overtime, he would have liked to have tried something more aggressive on the third-and-2 with the team already edging field goal range.

4. No stopping Rodgers and Adams

Cincinnati’s defense was decent in the red zone, holding the Packers to field goal attempts on three of five trips, one of those being a miss. However, the Bengals had trouble containing wide receiver Davante Adams, and he was a big part of Aaron Rodgers’ success. Adams finished with 206 yards and one touchdown on 11 catches, while Rodgers finished with 344 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

“He’s a good football player,” defensive end Trey Hendrickson said. “It’s his job to get open, and you’ve got give him props when he has a game like that in the NFL. That’s special. On our end, we need to tighten that up — that’s what film’s for — so we’re going to look at it on Monday and make those corrections so that doesn’t happen again.”

Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and Adams had some good matchups, but Awuzie was being evaluated for a concussion for much of the second quarter when Green Bay scored most of its points. He returned for the second half.

Running back Aaron Jones also had success, rushing for 103 yards, but 57 of those came on one play in the fourth quarter before Crosby’s first missed field goal.

5. Proving themselves contenders

The Bengals were disappointed in the loss but for a game that ended in such an odd way with so many chances to win it, Taylor said the staff learned everything they needed to know about their team – that Cincinnati can battle with anyone. Green Bay is coming off two straight NFC Championship appearances.

It would have been more of a statement if the Bengals could have won the game, but Awuzie said the Bengals proved something to themselves Sunday.

“I think the most important thing is proving (that) to ourselves, and, again, building an identity as a team (and) as a defense, and I think we’re still striving through those moments,” Awuzie said. “This was a close game, a very close game. I think we lost the game three times and they lost the game three times, but we ended up being the loser ultimately at the end of the game. If we make a couple of plays, now we’re having a whole different conversation (entirely), so yeah, we’ll look at the film, see what we did right, and there’s definitely stuff we’re going to be proud of on the film and stuff that were not going to like at all. But we just have to keep going.”

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