GREEN BAY — Aaron Rodgers burned another defense deep with a free play. The Cincinnati Bengals found their offense and a new way to lose.
Mason Crosby kicked a 27-yard field goal with 6:26 left in overtime set up by Rodgers’ 72-yard pass to Geronimo Allison, and the Green Bay Packers rallied to beat Cincinnati 27-24 on Sunday.
Crosby’s kick completed the Packers’ comeback from a 21-7 halftime deficit.
On third-and-10 from his 21, Rodgers took advantage of yet another free play after defensive end Michael Johnson was whistled for offside. Officials let the play continue and the two-time NFL MVP found Allison on about a 40-yard pass before the receiver beat a couple defenders for more yards.
“Luckily I put it in a good spot and G-Mo did the rest,” Rodgers said.
Crosby, a veteran kicker, finished it off for the Packers (2-1).
The winless Bengals (0-3) won the toss in overtime but went three-and-out on their opening drive. It was so loud at Lambeau Field that they had to call timeout before their first overtime snap.
Rodgers thrived under the pressure.
He connected with Jordy Nelson for a 3-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 24. Cornerback Dre Kilpatrick narrowly missed batting away the bullet thrown by the quarterback into the front right corner of the end zone.
“We rushed the quarterback, keeping him in. We did a lot, but when we broke down, (Rodgers) made plays,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said.
Rodgers finished 28 of 42 for 313 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Allison had six catches for 122 yards.
“I thought Aaron played one of his best games,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I thought he was tremendous today.”
The Packers flipped the script after the Bengals controlled the first half.
A.J. Green caught a 10-yard scoring pass on the game’s opening drive for Cincinnati’s first touchdown after two frustrating weeks for the offense. Bill Lazor made his debut as offensive coordinator for the fired Ken Zampese.
Andy Dalton was 21 of 27 for 212 yards and two scores. The Bengals were desperate to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2008. But they couldn’t finish the Packers off in the second half.
“A disappointment is not finishing a football game now,” Lewis said.
Green Bay’s defense generated a little more pressure on Dalton in the second half, and rookie safety Josh Jones gave the injury-laden defense a boost with two sacks and 12 tackles.
Rodgers shook off his early struggles to guide the Packers to another win. He was sacked six times, mostly against just the Bengals’ four-man rush, though the protection shored up after halftime.
Rodgers threw just his second career pick-six — and his first at home — when William Jackson returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown for a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter.
“Oh, we took a step as a football team,” McCarthy said. “This always pays forward when you go through adversity and you have success.”
At least Cincinnati’s offense finally got into the end zone.
Green’s score snapped a season-opening streak of 25 possessions without a touchdown. Until Sunday, they were only able to muster three field goals over the first two weeks, both losses.
Rodgers’ only other interception returned for a score came on Nov. 8, 2009, by Tanard Jackson in a 38-28 loss at Tampa. ... It was the warmest kickoff for a Packers home game at 89 degrees.
Most members of each team interlocked arms on their respective sidelines when the national anthem was played before kickoff.
“We’ve got to stick together and show people that it doesn’t matter what skin color or where you come from, we can stand as one. That’s what we did today,” Green said.
Across the field, Rodgers stood at the sideline locking arms with tight end Richard Rodgers and backup quarterback Brett Hundley. Three Packers sat on the bench during the anthem: tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, along with rookie cornerback Kevin King.
The Packers played without seven key players, including defensive lineman Mike Daniels (hip), outside linebacker Nick Perry (hand) and starting cornerback Davon House (quad).
On offense, left tackle David Bakhtiari (hamstring) and receiver Randall Cobb (chest) were inactive. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga made the start after being listed as questionable but did not return after aggravating his ankle injury in the second half.
GREEN BAY — There’s one impossible-to-miss attribute that rookies Kevin King and Josh Jones share: They do not lack for confidence.
And so, after the Green Bay Packers’ two youngsters led their defense to a 27-24 overtime victory over the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at Lambeau Field — King by containing Bengals star receiver A.J. Green; Jones by being all over the field, including in the Cincinnati backfield taking down quarterback Andy Dalton twice — their body-language reactions were the same. And hardly surprising.
“It’s satisfying to know that your preparation paid off, but this is a long season,” Jones explained after registering a team-high 12 tackles, two sacks and three total tackles for loss. “This is just one game. I expect to continue to do that throughout this season.”
That’s King’s attitude, too.
Asked how he reacted when the coaches told him that he’d be matching up with Green, King said his response was two words: “Thank you.”
King, the first of two second-round picks (No. 33) out of Washington, earned his first NFL start with how he played last week at Atlanta, when he got the call after third-year cornerbacks Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins struggled. With veteran Davon House (quadriceps) not playing Sunday, defensive coordinator Dom Capers gave King the task of covering the six-time Pro Bowler Green.
Although Green did catch 10 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown — a 10-yarder that came against zone coverage, not against King — his longest reception went for 20 yards and he didn’t deliver any of the momentum-shifting, game-breaking plays that the Packers’ secondary frequently allows against top-flight receivers. He surely played well enough to merit staying in the starting lineup for Thursday night’s game against the Chicago Bears – and beyond.
“I think I did well. I think I did well,” King replied when asked how he thought he fared. “Like every game we just want to improve. It’s a quick turnaround on Thursday. Good plays, bad plays, you’ve got to move on to the next.”
Jones, who went 28 picks after King at No. 61 out of North Carolina State, was impressive during the offseason but didn’t play a single snap on defense in the Sept. 10 opener against Seattle. He saw his first defensive action last week when he replaced an injured Kentrell Brice as one of the traditional safeties in the Packers’ Nitro package, with veteran safety Morgan Burnett playing at inside linebacker.
On Sunday, Capers employed a four-safety look — Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Marwin Evans at traditional safety, Burnett mostly in the slot and Jones as the hybrid inside linebacker — in part out of necessity with inside linebacker Jake Ryan (concussion/hamstring) out, and in part because the Bengals don’t utilize a lot of three- and four-receiver spread sets. Capers sent Jones and Burnett on several blitzes from opposite sides of the formation and on both of Jones’ sacks, the two basically met at Dalton.
“He was fantastic, he really was. It’s fun to watch him play and get confident,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “For young players like that, and for Josh especially not having a ton of reps (before Sunday). With Jake Ryan down today, we had to play a bunch of safeties, and he a got a lot of action and he made the most of it.
“He was huge for us with the sacks, with the stops, with the coverage. I’m really happy for him. It was the stuff that we saw in training camp. We’ve seen this from him. Josh is a tough competitor, and his contribution today was vital for our success.”
Added Packers coach Mike McCarthy: “We’ve always played young players early and today’s a benefit of it. So everybody got to play, you win a tough game against a tough opponent. And that’s the benefit.”
The UW-La Crosse football team’s offense has looked a bit different in its three nonconference games this season compared to its early-season performances a year ago.
There hasn’t been the 65-point explosion like fans saw against Ripon in 2016 — although, absent three first-half turnovers in Saturday’s 41-6 home shellacking of Carroll, the Eagles seemed on their way to that kind of performance.
But what has stood out has been a push toward establishing the basic tenants of offensive coordinator Jake Landry’s system, and how important that foundation is going to be in the WIAC season. Despite injuries to its three of its top five running backs and working in a revamped offensive line, the Eagles have grinded out solid rushing performances in each contest.
UW-L (3-0) gained 172 yards on 43 carries Saturday, a tidy average of 4 yards a carry, and scored three times on runs from inside Carroll’s 5-yard line. The Eagles were 5-for-5 on their red-zone chances Saturday, and are now 11 of 13 (85 percent) in such scenarios this season. UW-L converted just 77 percent of their red-zone chances into points last season, and it hurt them in close games against Whitewater and Eau Claire.
“I thought we did a marvelous job in the red zone,” UW-L coach Mike Schmidt said. “Last year against these guys we couldn’t move the ball in the red zone at all. I feel good about that.”
With Carroll sending multiple defenders at Eagles senior receiver Nick Holcomb each play, the offense relied on other weapons to get the ball moving through the air. In particular, the team’s tight ends — sparingly used as receivers a year ago, but improved in talent and depth — got involved often. Sophomore tight end Cole Spieker scored his first career touchdown in the first quarter on a wheel route near the goal line and finished with 43 yards. Junior Trent Milliken also brought in three passes, gaining 26 yards.
“Those guys are freaks,” senior quarterback Tarek Yaeggi said. “That’s what they are. For them to be that big and run that fast and be able to block the way they do, that’s what helps our offense.”
A ground-and-pound running game and having tight ends move the chains isn’t as flashy as when Holcomb goes off and puts up video game numbers, but it is sustainable. It travels. It can be the difference in a tight conference game when relying on the outside passing game becomes tougher and tougher.
“We’re trying to keep them (opponents) off guard,” Spieker said. “A lot of defenses play against the run when there’s a lot of tight ends on the field, and we’re trying to break that.”
Don’t get me wrong: When the chips are down, UW-L is going to rely on Yaeggi making throws. With his talent and the receivers the team has, it’d be foolish not to. But what I see is a team evolving from being solely reliant on the pass — as UW-L was near the end of last season — to having options to start each game.
The Eagles face Stevens Point — a team they haven’t beat since 2013 — this week, and it’s the biggest test to date for UW-L.
In a matchup of two teams trying to climb into the top tier of the WIAC, the Eagles have an immediate chance to prove they’ve solved their biggest issues.
The world isn’t always a nice place.
Bad things happen daily. Some come from an intentional act by another person, but most are circumstantial.
There are natural disasters, like the hurricanes that moved Texas and Florida this month, that are unavoidable.
One of those bad things happened to the family of Central High School freshman Maddie Masewicz last weekend, and the reaction from her teammates on the tennis team was an act of kindness.
A fire burned down Masewicz’s family home. She lost her bedroom and personal possessions that can’t be replaced.
One of the more trivial things lost in the fire was her tennis racquet. After helping the family clean up what it could, the tennis took up a collection and presented the money to Masewicz to replace her racquet and start building new wardrobe.
“It’s a pretty neat gesture, and the girl is a freshman,” Central coach Paul Holman said. “I am just so incredibly proud of the girls for thinking of her and then helping her out when she needed it the most.”
The best part?
Holman had nothing to do with it. It was initiated and executed by the players on the team.
“The kids did this all on their own,” Holman said. “Most of them drove out there Saturday. This tennis team is a family.”
That team chemistry has paid dividends on the court this season. The Red Raiders went 6-0 in MVC play and are in contention for their 12th conference title — and second in three years — when the conference tournament takes place today on tennis courts at both UW-La Crosse and Forest Hills Golf Course.
Central may have beaten everyone in dual meets, but they will have to work hard to win the overall championship. Onalaska won 38 matches in its conference dual meets and actually takes the regular-season lead into the meet after Central won 36 matches in MVC play.
The Red Raiders need to win to get more points, but also need Onalaska to get upset in a couple of different spots to catch it.
“Logan girls don’t play for us, but we are going to cheer for them,” Holman said. “It would be huge for us if Onalaska were to fall a little earlier.”
The Red Raiders were able to upend the Hilltoppers 4-3 in a nail-biter a couple of weeks of ago. But the flighted conference tournament it a different situation, and the battle between the teams should be a good one.
“We are down six points, this is our best chance now,” Holman said. “It’s going to be really interesting and a lot of fun.”
Regardless of the conference tournament’s outcome, this rivalry isn’t going to end any time soon. Central has seven juniors on varsity, while Onalaska plays a few sophomores and juniors, as well. The competition between the teams isn’t a one-year thing.
“That’s what makes tennis so great is the rivalries,” Holman said. “These girls play each other all season, all summer, all winter, but still are great friends even though they are going up against each other.
“Once the match is done, they will talk for another 10 or 15 minutes. I have to tell them to get off the court.”