Packers Insider: Thumbs up to Jordy Nelson, down to running game
THE BIG PICTURE
For the hottest game in Lambeau Field history (89 degrees at kickoff), the Packers came out ice cold. But Aaron Rodgers heated up after halftime and the Packers rallied to beat the winless Bengals 27-24. It was the Green Bay's first overtime victory since 2007 and Rodgers’ first after losing his first seven (including postseason). Now comes a short week before a visit from the Bears, who upset the Steelers 23-17 in overtime. If the Packers (2-1) can take care of business Thursday night against Chicago (1-2), they can savor a 10-day break to heal up and prepare for back-to-back road tests at Dallas and Minnesota.
The Packers were facing a third and 10 from their own 21 on their first possession of overtime when Rodgers once again coaxed a free play by pulling Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson offside. As usual, Rodgers looked deep and this time found wide receiver Geronimo Allison open about 40 yards downfield. Allison made the catch and then weaved his way down to the Bengals' 7-yard line, setting up Mason Crosby’s game-winning, 27-yard field goal. Before that, Allison made three big catches on the TD drive that forced overtime.
Jordy Nelson returned to the lineup after exiting the Falcons game early with a quad injury and failing to make a catch. The Packers sure were glad to have him back. Nelson made six catches for 52 yards, the biggest a diving, three-yard catch in the end zone for the game-tying touchdown with the clock winding down in regulation. It was his second TD catch of the day and moved him past Sterling Sharpe into second on the Packers’ all-time TD reception list with 66 (Don Hutson had 99).
Ty Montgomery played more snaps (139) than any running back in the NFL in the first two games, and he was a busy man against the Bengals. But he didn’t get a lot done: Montgomery rushed 12 times for 35 yards and caught eight passes for just 15 yards. He didn’t get much help from a patchwork offensive line missing starting left tackle (David Bakhtiari), and with right tackle Bryan Bulaga still gimpy with a sprained ankle that sidelined him for the day early in the fourth quarter.
Rodgers finally walked off the field a winner against Cincinnati, the only team the Packers hadn’t beaten during his tenure. The Packers quarterback had opened the season with two uneven performances (by his standards), throwing for more than 300 yards in both games but posting passer ratings below 100 (86.5 vs. Seattle, 90.7 at Atlanta). Rodgers was intercepted in each of the first two games, making ball security even more of a priority against the Bengals. But he was burned again, throwing a second-quarter pick-6 (only the second of his career) that was returned by William Jackson to put the Bengals ahead 21-7. Rodgers was harried throughout the game (six sacks), but again delivered when the chips were down. He finished 28 for 42 for 313 yards, three touchdowns and one interception and a passer rating of 102.6.
Tight end Martellus Bennett figured to be a man on a mission against Cincinnati after a difficult night in Atlanta, when he dropped several passes and committed a costly offensive pass interference penalty on a pick play. He was utilized Sunday primarily as a run blocker but again was ineffective as a pass catcher, making just three receptions for 12 yards with a key third-down drop in the fourth quarter. Bennett was one of three Packers (along with fellow tight end Lance Kendricks and cornerback Kevin King) who sat during the national anthem as a gesture of protest.
After being burned by Julio Jones in Atlanta, the Packers shuffled their secondary in hopes of handling Bengals star wide receiver A.J. Green. King earned his first starting assignment with Davon House (quadriceps) inactive, but the corners struggled to contain Cincinnati’s passing game. Embattled Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was on fire in the first half (12-of-14 for 116 yards and 2 TDs) and finished with a passer rating of 124.1. Green picked up where Jones left off, burning the Packers for 111 yards and a TD on 10 receptions.
Rookie safety Josh Jones finally saw significant playing time and made a major impact. Jones made a team-high 12 tackles, three of them for loss, and had two sacks. One of those sacks came on a big third-down play near the end of the third quarter and cost the Bengals eight yards, which looked big when kicker Randy Bullock was wide right on an ensuing 48-yard field goal attempt. Jones also made the third-down tackle that forced the Bengals to punt the ball away in overtime.
BITS AND PIECES
» The Packers snapped a three-game losing streak against the Bengals, whom they hadn’t beaten since 1998.
» The inactives for the Packers were wide receiver Randall Cobb (chest), S Kentrell Brice (groin), CB House (quadriceps), ILB Jake Ryan (concussion/hamstring), OLB Nick Perry (hand), LT Bakhtiari (hamstring) and DE Mike Daniels (hamstring). All were doubtful entering the day.
» Rodgers completed 28 passes Sunday. It was his fifth straight game with 27 or more completions (dating to last season), breaking the franchise record he shared with Brett Favre (Weeks 2-5 in 2007).
» Attendance for the Gold Package game at Lambeau Field was announced as 78,323.