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Why The Packers' Loss Was Actually Positive

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With an improved defense and running attack, the Pack could be making a trip to New York in February. Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images
With an improved defense and running attack, the Pack could be making a trip to New York in February. Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Following the Green Bay Packers’ devastating 34-30 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, despair, panic and negativity are naturally rising up from Packer nation. I’m not buying it.

Yes, this was an incredibly frustrating loss for the Packers. Up 30-14 with less than a quarter and a half to play, there’s no reason why a good NFL team shouldn’t close out that victory. Going from a huge first down that almost singlehandedly sealed the win to a correct but nevertheless painful overturn to a circus-like fumble return touchdown that drove a knife through the Packers’ hearts in a matter of minutes was almost too much to handle. Worst of all, Aaron Rodgers, the one guy whom Packers fans can always count on to perform at an elite level, was for once the biggest reason for the loss.

And while my glasses have always been half empty, I can’t help but examine the Packers’ loss to the Bengals and feel good. Take away all the emotions, the final score and Aaron Rodgers’ day to forget, and look what you have left.

The defense turned in its best performance of the year. After getting torched through the air in the season opener, the defense responded very well last week by shutting out the Redskins for three-and-a-half quarters before giving up a bunch of garbage time yards and points by going ultra conservative. This week, the unit held the Bengals to 297 total yards, forced four turnovers, returned a fumble for a touchdown and recorded four sacks. This time, Dom Capers’ players started slow but shut down Cincinnati after giving up two quick scores, one of which wasn’t their fault. You know that problem going back to last year of allowing at least one opposing receiver a gigantic day statistically? Well, the Packers’ secondary held the second best receiver in the NFL to only 46 receiving yards. Oh, and don’t forget, all of this happened with Clay Matthews on the sideline for the second half, and Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward have yet to play a down in the regular season. The defense that was the biggest deterrent to a back-to-back Super Bowl run just two years ago is now turning into a strength.

Unfortunately for Johnathan Franklin, his NFL debut will be remembered for his game-losing fumble, but he should be celebrated for the splendid work he did running the ball. All he did was rush for 103 yards and a touchdown on a 7.9 yards-per-attempt average in his first ever NFL game, and did it all in just one half. The Packers’ infamous streak of games without a 100-yard rusher ended last week when James Starks went off for 132 yards last week, but he had much bigger holes to work with. Against a fearsome Cincinnati defensive line, Franklin had to work harder for his yards. Some of his cutbacks made me wonder how this could be the same guy who barely made it through training camp. Two straight 100-yard performances from different rushers tells me the running game is fixed.

So say that before the game started, you would be told the Packers defense will force four turnovers and for the most part shut down the Bengals, and the Green Bay running backs would combine for 158 rushing yards, averaging 5.9 per attempt. You’d take that every time, right? How often would you expect the Packers to lose given those circumstances? Like, five percent of the time?

If Rodgers has just a mediocre game by his standards, the Packers win this game easily. He’s played the majority of his career with bad defenses and running games and still makes the Packers a playoff team every year. Now that he’s got a strong stable of running backs and a defense that continues to improve and improve, this team is going to be a serious threat to play in New York come February.

The stink of Rodgers’ performance made it hard to smell the roses of anything else. But it is imperative to look at this game and see it for what it was. Against a very good Cincinnati team, Green Bay’s defense and running game once again answered the call, proving they’ve both turned a corner and will no longer be hindrances for this team.

Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL, but even he throws the occasional stink bomb. Don’t forget about his competitiveness. A performance like this going into the bye week will only drive him that much harder to be at his best week in and week out. Rodgers is not going to have another game like that for the rest of 2013. Give him the defense and running attack from Sunday, and this team is easily a Super Bowl favorite.