By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Sep 21, 2009 at 11:19 AM Photography: Allen Fredrickson

Derailed by sloppy execution, penalties, injuries and perhaps a sense of overconfidence, the Packers looked nothing like a Super Bowl contender during a 31-24 loss to Cincinnati Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field.

Here are some observations from a dreary day in Green Bay:

Trivial pursuit: Everybody who has watched the NFL knows that the preseason is meaningless. (Detroit was 4-0 last year and didn't win a regular-season game). In the Packers' case, the preseason was meaningless and maliciously misleading. The pristine drives, marked by precise choreography and virtually no hits on Aaron Rodgers, are a fading memory now. A meaningless memory.

No protection: If the Packers don't shore up their offensive line, Rodgers is not going to start 16 games this season. The pounding he's taken in the first two games -- 10 sacks and several knockdowns -- is setting a good tone.

Second-guess city: The transaction that may get the most scrutiny in the coming weeks is the cutdown day release of veteran safety Anthony Smith. We just said that the preseason is meaningless, but the guy was making plays and -- with Atari Bigby out and Nick Collins facing a potential hiatus -- the Packers could use Smith in the defensive backfield. They'll see Smith on Sunday, when he plays for St. Louis. One reason the Packers let Smith go is that they thought he was unsuited for special teams. It's not like that unit has shined in the first two weeks.

Agent Zero: Greg Jennings is too good to be shut out. That's all their is to it. The star receiver faced some double-teams in the form of over-the-top safety help, but that was hardly a new development. It's hard to imagine the Packers winning a game without involvement from one of their best players. After observing a handful of practices during camp, I came away with the impression that Jennings is a hard worker. You can bet he'll step up his effort this week.

Bring the Wood: Charles Woodson's value to the defense can't be overstated. The guy continues to defy age and makes plays like a Pro Bowl player and borderline Hall of Famer. Think what might have happened yesterday without Woodson's two first-half interceptions, which included a 37-yard touchdown return.

Home sweet home? Packers coach Mike McCarthy talks a lot about home-field advantage and how great the fans are at Lambeau. The Packers are now 16-12 in home games (including playoffs) with McCarthy at the helm.

Play of the game: There were several candidates in this category, but the tone set by Cincinnati's third-and-34 conversion -- which featured a pass to tight end Daniel Coats fortuitous fumble recovery by Laverneus Coles -- was huge because of the sequence that followed. The next play was a flea-flicker from Carson Palmer to Chad Ochocinco, which was marred by an Al Harris Late hit. Four plays later, the Bengals scored a tying touchdown. For the Packers to give up points when they had a team in that down and distance was deplorable.

Hello, my name is... Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom ran roughshod over the Packers offensive line. After collecting one sack against left tackle Chad Clifton in the first half, Odom abused backup Daryn Colledge and the rest of the crew when Clifton went down with an injury. He ended up with five sacks and will almost certainly be named AFC defensive player of the week.

Flag day: The Packers continue to be marred by too many penalties, and it is incumbent on McCarthy to reverse that trend. In the past, McCarthy has talked about the youth of his roster -- which is a factor -- but he can't continue to tolerate the penalties. He needs to make it a point of emphasis as Mike Holmgren did during his time in Green Bay.

Been there, done that: The Bengals reacted well to the Packers 3-4 defense, which shouldn't be a surprise. They play in a division/conference where it is common. The Packers probably will have better luck confusing teams from the NFC.

Grant's tomb: The Packers are paying Ryan Grant to be an "impact" player. The offensive line hasn't been stellar and McCarthy can be accused of abandoning the run too early in some cases, but Grant has looked rather ordinary. He fumbled once and dropped a pass. That's not getting it done.

Silver lining: Tramon Williams' onside kick recovery was the lone bright spot for the Packers special teams units, which have floundered. Penalties on Desmond Bishop and John Kuhn were particularly costly and Bengals rookie Quan Cosby looked like a Pro Bowl candidate.

A different look: Maybe we're just more comfortable with the way FOX presents Packers games, but there is something jarring about CBS' broadcasts.

Loser's lament: Though they shouldn't have been in the situation in the first place, the Packers may end up having a beef with the false start or whatever-it-was call that ended the game. Rodgers hit Donald Driver with 25-yard pass that put the ball at the Bengals' 10. The ball was set with about 3 seconds left and snapped to Rodgers with about a second left. Rather than spiking it, Rodgers tried to run a final pass but the refs interceded. In his post-game meeting with reporters, McCarthy said that referee Ed Hochuli told him that wide receiver Greg Jennings was the player who jumped the gun. The Packers will no doubt check the tape and get back to the league about that one.

Leap of faith: The highlight of Ochocinco's Lambeau Leap into the arms of some Bengals fans was marred -- at least for network executives -- by a Green Bay fan who "flipped the bird" toward the cameras.

Better than advertised:  It's easy to belittle a team that has enjoyed one winning season in nearly two decades. But, the Bengals are not exactly chopped liver. They have a solid defense, an above-average quarterback, a resurgent running back (Cedric Benson)  and the coaching staff had them ready to roll Sunday.

Tweet police:  Can someone tell Nick Barnett to ditch the celebratory antics when he makes a play moments after missing a key tackle? Wait a minute... someone did. 

Barnett used his Twitter account to address the criticism:

"Oh yea for everyone that had something to say after I celebrated for making a takle for lost KISS MY ASS. . . I was trying to get the defense fired up. . . And so what if I missed the takle before am I suppose to stay in a funk about it!?? Get a life."

A while later, Barnett apologized via Twitter:  "Hey guys sorry for being so harsh to the haters I just let my emotions get the best of me right there. I should not even pay attetion just worked so hard to be back for the season. I put everything I had into rehab. There was no off season for me. So when people have Negative stuff to say it gets me a lil angry from time to time. But I'll be smarter about letting it get the best of me."


Quick hits: Clifton's status will dominate the news this week. It didn't look good, based on his reaction.... Look for the Mark Tauscher watch to intensify this week. Word is that the former Packers tackle is getting stronger in his comeback from knee surgery... Punters are almost interchangeable in the NFL, and the Packers may need to find another. Jeremy Kapinos isn't really getting it done. His hang time wasn't good and he seems inclined to kick toward the middle of the field rather than the sideline.