Packers come back to beat Bengals in OT
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Master of the Free Play, struck again.
This time, it sent Green Bay to a come-from-behind, 27-24 overtime victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
On third-and-10 on Green Bay’s first possession of overtime, Rodgers coaxed defensive end Michael Johnson offside. Rodgers took advantage of the free play and went deep to Geronimo Allison, who caught the ball at the Bengals’ 44 and weaved his way through the secondary to the 7. One play later, Mason Crosby booted a 27-yard field goal to give the Packers the victory.
“I was first looking to make sure we got them offsides,” Rodgers said. “I saw the flag thrown so I was looking down the seams first. You play this game long enough some weird stuff happens sometimes on the field. About a split-second before I threw that ball, I had an image of a pass I threw to James Jones against Detroit — it was actually a 80-yard touchdown at that point — so that kind of flashed right away. That helped with how hard to throw that one and luckily I put it in a good spot and ‘G-Mo’ did the rest.”
Big plays off free plays are a key part of the Packers’ offensive game plan. The Bengals, with a chance to get excellent field position if they could force a punt, bit on Rodgers’ cadence at the worst possible moment.
“We can’t be offsides. We can’t be offsides,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “We were disciplined with it all day and then we got an offsides in overtime.”
Cincinnati (0-3), which got 212 passing yards and two touchdowns from Andy Dalton, won the toss but went nowhere on a three-and-out possession.
“We obviously played better,” Dalton said. “We scored a touchdown. But, at the end of the game, we’ve got to find a way to put that away. We know what kind of offense they have. We know what Aaron can do.”
Rodgers completed 28-of-42 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns. The Packers (2-1) rallied from a 21-7 deficit despite not having starting left tackle David Bakhtiari and receiver Randall Cobb, both of whom were inactive, and then losing right tackle Bryan Bulaga.
“We took a step as a football team,” head coach Mike McCarthy said. “We won a game, beat a very good opponent, very talented opponent. A lot of young guys played in a game for the first time. This always pays forward when you go through adversity and you have success.”
Behind 24-17 with 3:46 remaining in regulation, Rodgers hit Allison for gains of 17, 11 and 3 yards and Jordy Nelson for 10 yards to the Bengals’ 33 at the two-minute warning. Completions of 5 yards to running back Ty Montgomery and 6 yards to tight end Martellus Bennett moved it to the 22, which was followed by a timeout with 1:13 left. Rodgers then connected with receiver Davante Adams for a gain of 9.
After an incomplete pass, Montgomery converted the third-and-1 with a run of 6. An offside penalty on rookie defensive end Carl Lawson made it first-and-goal at the 3. Rodgers rolled out to his right and fired a bullet to Nelson for the tying touchdown with 17 seconds remaining. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick almost broke up the pass.
The Packers trailed 21-7 at halftime, but dominated the third quarter. On the first play of the second half, Rodgers connected with tight end Lance Kendricks, who broke a tackle and gained 34. That seemed to jump-start the Packers after a listless first half. On third-and-goal from the 1, the Bengals sent a blitz. The Packers picked it up and Rodgers moved to his right. Kirkpatrick dropped coverage on receiver Nelson to come up on Rodgers. Rodgers then stopped and tossed the ball to Nelson, who was wide open in the end zone.
The Bengals had a chance to extend their lead, but safety Josh Jones sacked Dalton on third down and Randy Bullock was wide right from 48 yards.
On the ensuing possession, Green Bay cut the margin to 21-17. Rodgers’ play-action fake on third-and-1 led to a 23-yard gain by Nelson, which set up Mason Crosby’s 28-yard field goal on the third play of the fourth quarter.
The Bengals got a big stop with about 10 minutes to go when cornerback Josh Shaw broke up a third-and-5 pass to Bennett. The Packers failed to get a big stop on the ensuing possession. With the Bengals facing third-and-5 from their 14, rookie cornerback Kevin King was flagged for interference while defending star receiver A.J. Green. That prolonged a drive that took 5 minutes, 57 seconds off the clock and resulted in Bullock’s 46-yard field goal to make it 24-17. It’s a drive that will haunt the Bengals, though. On third-and-1, running back Joe Mixon slipped in the backfield. Dalton couldn’t hand him the ball and wound up being dropped in the backfield.
“Obviously, it was good we got the field goal but we left too much time for them,” Dalton said.
After the Bengals failed to score touchdowns in season-opening home losses to Baltimore and Houston, Lewis fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor. The Bengals promptly scored touchdowns on two of their first three possessions against Green Bay’s injury-depleted defense.
On the Bengals’ opening drive, Dalton hit Green for a 10-yard touchdown on third-and-8.
The Packers answered, benefitting from two calls. The first was a gain of 33 on pass interference against cornerback Adam Jones. It appeared Jones accidentally stepped on the foot of Kendricks. Three plays later, on first down from the Bengals’ 11, Rodgers fired a quick pass in the flat to Adams. Adams beat one defender at the line of scrimmage and then lunged for the end zone, with the ball popping out as he was hit by safety Shawn Williams near the goal line. The play initially was ruled a fumble, but was overturned on replay. On the next play, Rodgers’ play-action fake freed up Kendricks for the touchdown.
Cincinnati pulled back in front on Dalton’s 6-yard touchdown pass to running back Giovani Bernard. Bernard lined up as a receiver and motioned into the backfield. The Packers blew the coverage and Bernard tip-toed into the end zone. Bernard’s weaving, 25-yard run set up the score.
Moments later, cornerback William Jackson intercepted Rodgers and raced 75 yards for a touchdown to seemingly put the Bengals in control at 21-7. Jackson undercut an out to Nelson, caught Rodgers’ pass in stride and ran untouched up the right sideline.
“That was a great play,” Kirkpatrick said. “I asked him what they ran on the play and he said they ran a straight out and he just jumped it. For a young player, that was a big play, especially on a guy like that. He doesn’t give up those kind of plays.”
Green Bay got booed back into the locker room, as it was outgained 192-78. Lawson had two of the Bengals’ five sacks.
NOTES: The game-time temperature was 89, making this the hottest home game for the Packers since at least 1959. The previous high was 85, when the Packers hosted New Orleans in Milwaukee in 1978. ... Bengals CB William Jackson’s interception return for a touchdown was the first against Rodgers in 4,502 attempts. It was the Bengals’ first pick-six in almost two years. ... The Packers had six starters on their inactive list, which included WR Randall Cobb, S Kentrell Brice, CB Davon House, OLB Nick Perry, LT David Bakhtiari and DT Mike Daniels. ... TE Tyler Eifert and RG Trey Hopkins were inactive for the Bengals. ... WR Jordy Nelson made his 65th and 66th career touchdown receptions, tying and passing Sterling Sharpe for second in Packers history behind Don Hutson’s 99.