Cincinnati took a 14-point lead into the break, but dropped to 0-3 after the Packers scored 20 of the game’s final 23 points to win in overtime, 27-24, at Lambeau Field.
The Bengals found out at Lambeau Field that sometimes good is not good enough. Especially with a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback on the opposing sideline.
Trailing by two scores at the half, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw two second-half touchdowns to Jordy Nelson – the tying score with 17 ticks left in regulation – and his only completion in overtime went for 72 yards to second-year receiver Geronimo Allison and set up Mason Crosby‘s 27-yard game-winner.
Rodgers had been under duress for the majority of the game. With a make-shift offensive line blocking against a young, energetic Bengals’ defensive front, Cincinnati racked up six sacks. Rookie Carl Lawson, a fourth-round pick in April, had 2.5 while veterans Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson each had one.
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But that pass rush was slowed down in the game’s final period. The Bengals were limiting the big plays downfield, but Rodgers still had time to hit his nooks and crannies, completing passes to five different receivers before firing a three-yard fastball to Nelson past the outstretched hand of Dre Kirkpatrick.
Lazor and Co. starts strong, sputters late
Bill Lazor’s tenure as Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator started with a bang. After no touchdowns in the first two contests, the Bengals marched 79 yards on 10 plays on their first drive, a possession culminated by A.J. Green‘s 10-yard touchdown, his first since November of last season.
Green Bay would answer to make it 7-7 on the first of Rodgers’ three touchdown tosses. However, Cincinnati’s success continued against the Packers’ short-handed defense. The Bengals took their second lead of the game when Dalton found a wide open Giovani Bernard from six yards out in the second quarter, the fifth-year back first receiving score in over a year.
Early on, Lazor was using a quick-pace system, similar to what his former boss Chip Kelly ran in Philadelphia. More importantly, Lazor’s debut was highlighted by playmakers on offense getting the ball.
Green, after a post-game rant following the loss to Houston, was targeted a team-high 13 times (no one else had more than four) and hauled in 10 of them for 111 yards. Meanwhile, any backfield-by-committee approach left by Ken Zampese was wiped from the whiteboard.
Joe Mixon was the feature back. The rookie ran 18 times (17 carries in his first two games combined) for 62 yards and finished with 101 all-purpose yards with three receptions out of the backfield. Bernard ran the rock just three times, including a slithery 25-yard scamper that set up his second-quarter receiving score. Last but not least was Jeremy Hill. The much-maligned totaled seven carries for 23 yards and was mostly used for short yardage.
In what was by far his best game of 2017, Andy Dalton was above-average for most of the game. He finished with a 124.1 passer rating and threw two touchdowns, but Cincinnati’s offense went 0-for-5 on third down in the second half and scored just three points in its final seven drives.
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- Dalton hit Mixon on a swing pass to move the chains with 52 seconds left in the first quarter. The nine-yard completion lifted Dalton over Carson Palmer for third-most passing yards in franchise history. Dalton leapfrogged the Heisman winner’s mark in one less game (97-96) with 15 fewer interceptions (100-85).
- Sunday marked Rodgers’ first career overtime win and first victory over Cincinnati (previously 0-2).
- William Jackson III’s 75-yard pick-six was Cincinnati’s since Nov. 2015, when Leon Hall returned a Nick Foles’ floater 19 yards in a 31-7 win at PBS. It was also Rodgers’ first pick-six thrown since Nov. 2009, when Tanard Jackson’s 35-yard return sealed a winless Tampa Bay club’s upset over Green Bay.
- Green recorded his 500th career reception in the loss. He trails T.J. Houshmandzadeh by six catches for the no. 3 spot in team history.
- Hill passed Archie Griffin for the ninth spot on the Bengals’ all-time rushing list.
- Allison became the first 100-yard receiver allowed by the Bengals since Washington’s Jamison Crowder snagged nine passes for 107 yards in last year’s tie across the pond. Paul Guenther’s defense hasn’t allowed a 100-yard wideout in a regulation affair since week three of 2016 against Denver.
- Fourteenth 0-3 start in franchise history – third in the Marvin Lewis era (’03, ’08).
The Bengals head north to face winless division-rival Cleveland next Sunday. Over their current five-game winning streak in the Battle of Ohio, the Bengals have outscored the Browns 152-40.