NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers gave the Bengals the full onslaught of the high-tech Packers offense with a devastating first quarter where he unleashed 146 yards in the game's first 12:30 that included his touchdown scrambles of 12 and five yards while the Bengals first offense struggled during Green Bay's 27-13 victory.
Green Bay clicked into a much faster gear at Paul Brown Stadium Thursday night in the preseason's third game before 52,584 and it was never clearer than when the Bengals lost 11 yards when they had a first-and-goal and had to settle for Mike Nugent's 30-yard field goal that cut the Packers lead to 14-6 with 10:08 left in the first half.
Quarterback Andy Dalton looked uncomfortable and harried, then he went through a dreadful three-and-out to start the second half against the Packers backups to end the No. 1s' evening. He had wide receiver Brandon Tate open down the middle on third down, but he had to hurry it when strong safety M.D. Jennings came off the edge unblocked and took a shot as the Bengals failed for the seventh time on eight third downs. Dalton finished a very rough 5-of-17 for 40 yards with only one completion to wide receiver A.J. Green for three yards despite six targets.
This flat egg came out of nowhere because the first team had been pretty efficient in the first two games. In six series before Thursday night the first-teamers were seven out of 10 on third downs and had allowed just one coverage sack. But the Packers sacked Dalton twice and kept him guessing by sending different rushers or dropping eight into coverage. And after rushing for 11 yards on 10 tries last week in the first half, the first offensive line could get running backs Brian Leonard and Cedric Peerman only 28 yards on eight carries.
The inability to run it went on all night. Bengals running backs ran it 14 times for 32 yards.
Trailing 14-3, the Bengals got back in the game when cornerback Terence Newman dropped into a zone and intercepted Rodgers to give the Bengals the ball on the Green Bay 25 early in the second quarter and Tate converted a third-and-seven at the 12 when he made a great cut on cornerback Jarrett Bush in the middle of the field for a 10-yard gain. Then the Bengals got to the 1 when wide receiver Armon Binns made a full extension diving catch over the middle.
But on first down a play-action yielded nothing on a short incompletion and on second down running back Cedric Peerman had nowhere to go on the left side for a two-yard loss. Then on third down with four receivers, no one picked up blitzing linebacker Eric Walden over Dalton's left side and he had no shot on a nine-yard sack.
To add to a very tough night for the defense in which it gave up 216 yards on the first 33 snaps, former Bengals running back Cedric Benson picked up an 11-yard gain on the next series and added another first down on a 10-yard catch out of the backfield to set up Mason Crosby's 46-yard field goal to make it 17-6 with 4:59 left in the first half.
While Rodgers hit six of his first nine passes for 85 yards, the Bengals went three-and-out on their first two series that included a coverage sack, an incomplete pass courtesy of a quarterback hurry and right tackle Andre Smith's false start.
The Bengals didn't get going until they trailed, 14-0, and it took Dalton's scramble of his own, a career-long 28-yarder up the middle to jump-start them. Leonard followed pulling left guard Clint Boling for 12 more and Dalton's nine-yard completion to Tate put the Bengals at the Packers 24.
But there was no room on the left edge for Leonard's one-yard loss on first down, Dalton barely overthrew Binns in the end zone on second down and on third down Dalton had to check down when the Packers dropped eight and it was incomplete to Leonard. Nugent came on for a 42-yarder that made it 14-3 with 22 seconds left in the first quarter.
The dust had barely cleared from Rodgers's feet, which racked up 52 yards rushing compared to his 57.0 passer rating, and that didn't count the rollouts that accounted for much of his 12-of-22 passing for 154 yards.
That's how he hit wide receiver Greg Jennings to get the second drive of the game ignited, a 19-yard comeback route on cornerback Leon Hall. Then he got Jennings open on the edge with a feint and Hall missed the tackle as did safety Taylor Mays for 18 more yards. From the Bengals 12 Rodgers put the ball down in the pocket as the middle opened and he outraced cornerback Nate Clements to the left pylon to give the Packers a 7-0 lead with 7:56 left in the first quarter.
Cincinnati's second straight three-and-out took all of 1:14 and Rodgers was back at it with the help of old friend Benson. On the first carry of his post-Bengals career, Benson (38 yards on six carries) went right inside and backup end Micah Johnson stopped him after eight yards.
Rodgers then drilled a frozen rope over the middle to tight end Tom Crabtree (on a play tackle Domata Peko was called for being in the neutral zone) for 22 yards and Mays delivered a hellacious hit that dropped Crabtree in his tracks. It appeared Mays hit him cleanly, shoulder-to-shoulder, and Crabtree left with a shoulder injury. But Mays was called for a personal foul to put the ball at the Bengals 24.
Working against primarily the first defense, Benson didn't get touched until safety Reggie Nelson tackled him after nine yards. Rodgers did the rest. He scrambled for 11 yards and on second down from the 5, Rodgers took off up the middle after defensive tackle Geno Atkins got shielded for a touchdown that made it 14-0 with 3:26 left in the first quarter.
Atkins flexed his muscles on the game's first drive when he personally forced the Packers to punt with back-to-back moves. After Atkins got out of position on Rodgers's scramble up the middle for 15 yards to the Packers 49, Atkins dropped running back Alex Green for no gain and on third down he split a double team that helped right end Michael Johnson tip a Rodgers pass. And Packers left tackle Marshall Newhouse was still called for holding.
When the backups came on the field rookie wide receiver Marvin Jones continued his big preseason with a 15-yard touchdown to go along with two catches of at least 42 yards in the first two games. The Bengals got the ball on the 15 when Micah Johnson recovered a fumble and when backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski saw the Packers were playing press man, he appeared to check the play and went right to Jones's back shoulder as he worked on cornerback Casey Hayward. That cut the Packers lead to 17-13 with 4:51 left in the third quarter.
Moments later Jones added an 18-yard punt return, his first pro return after he had a fair catch earlier in the preseason.
Bengals third string quarterback Zac Robinson came in to make one throw and it was picked off by cornerback Sam Shields to set up Crosby's 36-yard field goal with 8:11 left in the game that made it 20-13.
The Packers finished the scoring with 2:57 left against fourth-string quarterback Tyler Hansen. The rookie threw a ball out in the flat that linebacker Jamari Lattimore intercepted and returned 27 yards for a touchdown.
Then the Bengals turned it over for the third time in the fourth quarter when running back Jourdan Brooks fumbled at the Bengals 20 just before the two-minute warning.
Micah Johnson and tight end Colin Cochart left for the locker room with various injuries and linebackers Manny Lawson and Emmanuel Lamur left with hamstring problems.
PREGAME NOTES: Both teams iced 16 players each before the game. There were no surprises for the Bengals when former Packer Donald Lee started at tight end in place of Jermaine Gresham (sprained knee) and Brian Leonard went in place of running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (foot) with Roddrick Muckelroy playing for middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (sprained MCL.) Left guard Clint Boling and left end Jamaal Anderson made their second straight starts for players hurt in the opener, Travelle Wharton and Carlos Dunlap, respectively.
The Packers were without four starters in tight end Jermichael Finley, running back James Starks, fullback Jon Hoese, and middle linebacker Desmond Bishop.
Also out for the Bengals were cornerbacks Brandon Ghee (wrist), Adam Jones (calf), Jason Allen (leg), Shaun Prater (knee), and Dre Kirkpatrick (leg), as well as safeties Robert Sands (unknown) and Tony Dye (foot), defensive ends DeQuin Evans (unknown), Carlos Dunlap (knee), Robert Geathers (knee), defensive tackle Pat Sims (leg), and running back Bernard Scott (hand).
Free-agent wide receiver Taveon Rogers, who switched to cornerback early in camp to alleviate the injuries, caught balls with the receivers during pregame.
An early guess at the Aug. 30 preseason finale in Indianapolis and the Sept. 10 regular-season opener in Baltimore is that Maualuga, Gresham, Dunlap and Scott won't play in Indy but are going to be available Sept. 10. Green-Ellis could get a few carries in Indy and definitely goes in Baltimore. Dunlap and Scott are probably going to be questionable for the opener.
The Bengals captains were Lee, Michael Johnson, Thomas Howard, Jeromy Miles and Chris Pressley.