Randall Cobb catches 2 TD passes to help Packers improve to 3-1 with 27-17 win over Steelers
GREEN BAY - Maybe the Green Bay Packers are precisely who they thought they were.
The Packers thumped the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday inside Lambeau Field, cruising to a 27-17 win in the first matchup between Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger since Super Bowl XLV. It continued a hot streak from the Packers, who have won three straight after their shocking blowout loss to the Saints that opened their season.
There was good reason to question what the Packers could do this season after their 38-3 loss to the Saints in Week 1, a defeat that begged the question of whether they were overrated as a team entering the year. In three games since, the answer has been resounding. The Packers are now 3-1 this season, among five NFC teams with at least three wins through the first four weeks.
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Here are some observations from Sundays’ game.
Milestone TD passes for Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger
The Steelers opened the scoring Sunday with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to receiver Diontae Johnson. The play was noteworthy because it came against cornerback Jaire Alexander, who might have received a shove from Johnson. Alexander rarely gives up catches, especially touchdowns. It was also Big Ben’s 400th career touchdown pass, making him the seventh quarterback in NFL history to join that exclusive 400 club. Rodgers and Brett Favre are also part of the club, and both were inside Lambeau Field on Sunday, with Favre recognized at halftime along with the rest of the Packers’ championship team from Super Bowl XXXI. Rodgers, not to be outdone, tossed a pair of touchdowns to Cobb. His second gave Rodgers 420 career touchdown passes, tying him with Dan Marino for sixth most in NFL history. Rodgers is one behind Philip Rivers’ 421 career touchdown passes for fifth most in NFL history. So there’s a good chance he’ll move into the top five next week at Cincinnati. On the day, Rodgers finished 20-for-36 passing for 246 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 95.6 rating.
Randall Cobb money on money down
Cobb has eight catches this season. Six have been on third down. That includes four of his five catches on third down Sunday against the Steelers. Over and over, Rodgers turned to the longtime friend and teammate he brought back to town before the season when he needed to extend a drive. Cobb finished with 5 catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns, the second also the lone reception Cobb had when it wasn’t first down. That catch came on first-and-goal from the 1-yard line as Rodgers rolled to the right before eventually finding his veteran receiver in the corner. While Cobb isn’t as high on the Packers' receiving depth chart as he used to be, Rodgers’ comfort with him has been important on key downs. Gives you an idea of why the quarterback wanted general manage Brian Gutekunst to trade for Cobb in August.
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Two-headed backfield of Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon
There were games in the past when Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams carried the offense. With Williams now in Detroit, the Packers still had a two-headed attack on the ground with Jones and second-year tailback AJ Dillon. They combined to carry the Packers' offense, finishing with 34 touches for 196 yards. They had 105 yards on 16 touches by halftime. Dillon had a 25-yard run to set up Rodgers’ second touchdown pass in the third quarter, the longest gain on the ground for the Packers this season. That followed a 15-yard run from Jones that had been their longest gain. In all, the pair helped a Packers offense that entered 29th in the league in rushing at 79 yards per game finish with 129 yards on 30 carries, not counting a 4-yard touchdown run from Rodgers. The Packers have needed to get the run game going, and Sunday they were able to get back on track.
Jaire Alexander carted to locker room
Along with some of the tightest coverage in the NFL, undersized cornerback Jaire Alexander has been lauded for his physical play throughout his career. He might have bitten off a little too much in Sunday’s second half. Alexander delivered a thud of a tackle in the open field against Steelers running back Najee Harris, dropping him short of the first-down marker on fourth-and-4. It was a big play, but Alexander appeared to get the worst of the collision against the 6-2, 229-pound tailback. After being slow getting up after the play, Alexander was carted to the locker room before the end of the third quarter. He did not return, and the NFL Network reported that he may have suffered an AC joint injury. Alexander, a second-team All-Pro last season, is one of the few players the Packers absolutely can not afford to lose this season. With Kevin King already in concussion protocol, Alexander’s exit elevated Isaac Yiadom alongside rookie Eric Stokes and slot corner Chandon Sullivan in the Packers’ secondary.
Mason Crosby keeps kicking streak going
Mason Crosby has been so automatic dating back to the start of last season, he’s reached the point where defenses need to cheat to slow them down. That might have been the first sign something was wrong when Crosby’s field goal was blocked before halftime. Steelers cornerback Joe Haden, the wide man on field-goal block, jumped the snap count and helped blow up a play that led to a Minkah Fitzpatrick field-goal block returned for a touchdown. The play looked disastrous, except there was yellow laundry on the field. Given another chance, Crosby nailed his first of two field goals to put the Packers up 17-10 at halftime. He has made each of his six field goals this season, after making all 16 last season, and 22 of 24 in 2019. His current 24 straight made field goals set a career record, tying his previous record of 23 straight.