GREEN BAY - Surely the Green Bay Packers never thought they would be in this position, with the ball on their own 21-yard line and needing a score in overtime to beat the winless, hapless and — until Sunday — touchdown-less Cincinnati Bengals. But such was the scenario facing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his makeshift offensive line and wounded group of receivers.
With left tackle David Bakhtiari (hamstring) and wide receiver Randall Cobb (chest) ruled out before the game started, and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (ankle) having dropped out in the second half, Rodgers needed a bit of magic to prevent an embarrassing loss.
SILVERSTEIN: Rodgers, WRs take over when it counts
DOUGHERTY: Winning with help from defensive rookies
5 TAKEAWAYS: Quick look at the Packers' victory
On third and 10, Rodgers induced a neutral-zone infraction and generated one of his trademark free plays. He heaved deep down the left sideline to wide receiver Geronimo Allison, who was wide open behind the unsuspecting coverage. Allison zig-zagged his way for 72 yards to the Cincinnati 7-yard line as the crowd at Lambeau Field resurrected its belief.
Kicker Mason Crosby connected on a 27-yard field goal to secure the win, 27-24.
Trust issues: Even with starting corner Davon House sidelined by a quadriceps injury, defensive coordinator Dom Capers had plenty of options to choose from during the week. His cornerback group still contained Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, Kevin King, Josh Hawkins and Lenzy Pipkins. But the defensive alignment for the Packers told you what little trust Capers has in several of the aforementioned players. The nickel defense against the Bengals featured King and Randall as the top two cornerbacks with safety Morgan Burnett playing as the slot corner — with Rollins and Hawkins left watching from the sideline. This allowed Capers to use rookie Josh Jones as the nitro linebacker alongside Blake Martinez and bring safety Marwin Evans onto the field to play with starter Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
INSIDER: Thumbs up to Jordy Nelson
BOX SCORE: Packers 27, Bengals 24
Growing up fast: It’s amazing how much can change in three weeks. When the Packers opened their season against the Seattle Seahawks, neither Kevin King nor Josh Jones played major roles in the defensive game plan. By the time Sunday’s game ended, it’s clear the Packers need every ounce of effort those two rookies can provide. Capers turned to King as his primary option against wide receiver A.J. Green, one of the best players in the league. Green made his plays at times — he finished with 10 catches for 111 yards and one score — but the fact that King drew the assignment is a reflection of his standing with the coaches. Jones, meanwhile, was everywhere for the Packers. He sliced into the backfield for a one-handed tackle against the run, he beat tight end Tyler Kroft on the left side for a sack of quarterback Andy Dalton and he flew in off the slot for another sack of Dalton with Burnett converging at the same time. Jones finished with 12 tackles (including three for loss) and assured the coaches of his spot on the field.
Streak snapped: Not since 2009 had Rodgers watched one of his interceptions returned the other way for a touchdown — at least not a touchdown that stood. Defensive tackle Nazair Jones of the Seahawks picked off Rodgers in Week 1 and returned the ball 64 yards for a touchdown. An illegal block above the waist wiped that touchdown off the scoreboard. Sunday, however, the Bengals completed what the Seahawks nearly finished. Cornerback William Jackson undercut a pass intended for wide receiver Jordy Nelson early in the second quarter and returned the ball 75 yards for a touchdown. Jackson joined former Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Tanard Jackson as the only players to notch a pick-6 on Rodgers. The score gave the Bengals a 21-7 lead.
Plugging the wound: There is no questioning the resiliency and fortitude of backup lineman Kyle Murphy after the way his season has started. Murphy, who entered camp as the No. 7 lineman, started at right tackle in Week 1 before switching to left tackle in each of the last two games. But Murphy is nowhere near the level of starter David Bakhtiari, and whether he’ll ever get there shouldn’t be answered for another few years at least. Murphy had some serious struggles against the Bengals, particularly when matched with rookie Carl Lawson from Auburn. Lawson finished with 2 1/2 sacks of Rodgers, all of which came against Murphy and stalled drives. In total, the Bengals sacked Rodgers six times.
Injury report: All seven players who entered the game as doubtful wound up on the inactive list for the Packers. WR Randall Cobb (chest), S Kentrell Brice (groin), CB Davon House (quadricep), ILB Jake Ryan (concussion/hamstring), OLB Nick Perry (hand), LT David Bakhtiari (hamstring) and DE Mike Daniels (hamstring) did not dress.