GREEN BAY - This time, there was no late plot twist.
Sure, the Green Bay Packers had a chance in the waning seconds. But unlike in their season-opening win over the Chicago Bears a week earlier, the Packers couldn't overcome their shortcomings Sunday afternoon.
The offense still was - for the most part - stagnant. The defense came back to earth and couldn't stop the run. The special teams gave up several big plays.
It all added up to a 31-24 defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals in front of a sellout crowd of 70,678 at Lambeau Field.
"It was everything," said cornerback Charles Woodson, one of the few bright spots for Green Bay in the loss. "Special teams, both sides of the ball. We just didn't get it done."
The Packers' hopes of a 2-0 start to the season came to an end on the Bengals' 10-yard line when their last snap was blown dead for a false start - Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy was told by referee Ed Hochuli's crew the flag was because receiver Greg Jennings wasn't set - with 1 second left.
The Packers trailed 31-21 with 1 minute, 56 seconds to go after Bengals kicker Shayne Graham hit a 40-yard field goal. They gave themselves a chance, though, by driving to the Cincinnati 27 - quarterback Aaron Rodgers had two completions for 25 yards and scrambled twice for 27. With no timeouts left, McCarthy opted to send in kicker Mason Crosby on second down, and his 45-yard field goal cut the deficit to seven with 45 seconds left.
Crosby's ensuing onside kick then bounded through traffic before cornerback Tramon Williams recovered it. After two incompletions, Rodgers found tight end Jermichael Finley for a 22-yard gain down to the Bengals' 35. Rodgers spiked it to stop the clock with 17 seconds to go, and then hit receiver Donald Driver over the middle at the 10.
Rodgers took a hurried snap, but whistles stopped any chance at a game-tying score, with Jennings the apparent culprit. Originally, Hochuli announced the ball wasn't snapped before the clock expired before correcting himself.
"We knew it was going to come down to one second," McCarthy said. "That's why, frankly, with the play that I called, and when we hit it, watching the linemen, I knew that was going to be the challenge. I was surprised it was Greg Jennings that was called for the illegal formation."
Added Rodgers: "I didn't look to the left, so I couldn't tell. They said Greg false started. If he's watching the ball, I'd find that hard to believe. But I haven't seen the film and I didn't watch that precisely. I was looking at the clock the entire time. It felt like we were all lined up."
But the late drama didn't cover up what was otherwise a troubling performance by the Packers. Rodgers, who was 21-for-39 for 261 yards and a touchdown, was somewhat indecisive and was sacked six times - five alone by Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom, the most ever by a Green Bay opponent - and hurried 10 times behind a line that had to shuffle after left tackle Chad Clifton (ankle) left.
The Packers rushed for 89 yards, but 27 of those came from Rodgers on the second-to-last drive. Jennings didn't make a catch to snap a streak of 44 games with at least one reception.
After hurrying and harassing Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in the opener, Green Bay's defense couldn't bring as much pressure against the Bengals' Carson Palmer because it struggled to stop the run, allowing 151 yards on the ground.
"By no means is it time to panic,'' center-guard Jason Spitz said. "Obviously it's frustrating losing. It always is, and it's frustrating not to be productive on offense. But I feel confident in the guys that we have and more than confident in the coaches we have, so we're going to get this fixed. We're going to move on. There's a lot of ball left in the season."
Green Bay's outlook appeared much more promising after Woodson broke on an errant throw by Palmer along the sideline and took it 37 yards for a touchdown that gave the Packers a 21-14 lead with 7:46 left in the first half.
Cincinnati then faced a third-and-34 from its 7 on the next drive, but Palmer hit tight end Daniel Coats for a 23-yard pickup. Coats fumbled, but receiver Laveranues Coles fell on it at the 45, giving the Bengals the first down.
Palmer eventually found receiver Chris Henry for a 5-yard score to tie it at 21.
Packers running back Ryan Grant fumbled on Green Bay's first possession of the second half, and Cincinnati drove 62 yards on 12 plays to take a 28-21 lead on receiver Chad Ochocinco's 13-yard score with 1:09 left in the third.
That's how it remained until Graham's kick set up the nearly improbable finish.
"We lost in every phase, but we still have the opportunity to win the game," Williams said. "And then, we make it down there to almost score, and the clock runs out. I don't think it gets any tougher than that."