Packers wilt Bengals in OT of Sauna Bowl

GREEN BAY, Wis. - The Bengals lost in overtime Sunday when kicker Mason Crosby hit a 27-yard field goal doomed them, 27-24, after Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers found wide receiver Geronimo Allison for 72 yards on Green Bay's only possession of the extra session.

The Bengals went three-and-out to start the OT and failed to get a touchdown in the game's final 45 minutes.

The last 3:46 of regulation belonged to Rodgers as he bobbed and weaved away from a Bengals pass rush that had sacked him six times and drove Green Bay from its 25 to the tying touchdown with 17 seconds left hitting nine of 11 passes in the drive as a tired, hot defense had trouble getting to him.

On third-and-one, Ty Montgomery ran for six yards to the Bengals 7 and then right end Michael  Johnson was called for lining up offsides. So from the 3, they rolled out Rodgers to the right and wide receiver Jordy Nelson was isolated on cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and Kirkpatrick dove to knock it down but couldn’t get it.

Early in the drive on third-and-nine Rodgers threw a dart for a first down to Allison even though cornerback Darqueze Dennard was draped all over him. Then on the play before the two-minute warning he threw across the field away from the rush to Nelson on the sideline for 10 at the Bengals 33.  The Bengals, trying to take advantage of losses by the Steelers and Ravens and trying to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2008, clung to a 21-17 lead when they got the ball at their own 9 with ten minutes left and Andy Dalton, enjoying a big bounce back game, handed it to rookie running back Joe Mixon five times for  30 yards to put the Bengals on the Packers 27 facing a third-and-one. And they were going to give it to Mixon again, but he slipped before he got the handoff and Dalton tried to get it but he couldn’t.  Yet Mixon’s good work killed six minutes and on his way to a 62-yard day on 18 carries. That set up Randy Bullock’s 46-yard field goal to give Cincy a 24-17 lead with 3:46 left.

 The Bengals offense looked a lot better, but after scoring their first two touchdowns of the season on the game’s first three drives, they continued to struggle and went without points starting early in the second quarter until Bullock's field goal. After Bengals defensive lineman Chris Smith came from the inside for the sixth sack of Rodgers, the Bengals got the ball at the Packers 47 for their best drive start of the day in the middle of the third quarter.

After Dalton’s 10-yard slant to wide receiver A.J. Green, his protection crumbled.  He got pressure up the middle on second down and had to throw it away and on third down safety Josh Jones beat tight end Tyler Kroft for an eight-yard sack, giving Bullock a 48-yard field try and he missed it wide right and the Bengals couldn’t extend their 21-14 lead.

Green was back to his brilliant self with 111 yards on 10 catches on 13 targets, logging his 29th 100-yard game with eight minutes left in the game and leaving him two behind Chad Johnson’s club record.

Not being able to run it with the lead was huge for Cincinnati at that point. They ran for just a yard on two carries in the third quarter.

That ignited Rodgers, who finally looked like Rodgers. He got the ball at his 38 after Bullock’s miss and  scrambled for 13 yards, got nine more when linebacker Nick Vigil couldn’t come up with a deflected pass, and hit for 23 yards to Nelson on a third-and-one play action. Then the Bengals were called for too many men on the field when cornerback William Jackson couldn’t get off in time and when Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis went for replay, the flag was confirmed.

But the Bengals held on first down from the 12 to foce Crosby’s 24-yard field goal that cut the Bengals lead to 21-17 with 14:43 left in the game.

And the Bengals just couldn’t run it. The Bengals responded with two runs, one each toMixon and Giovani Bernard and they could only get a yard. On third-and-nine, Dalton got a good pocket but it looked he made two bad decisions. He didn’t step up and he was called for grounding.

The heat made it a game of attrition. Starting safeties George Iloka and Shawn Williams and starting linebacker Vincent Rey left in the fourth quarter with cramps but came back. Backup tackle Andre Smith worked at both left and right in the second half and was at left tackle during the OT.

The Bengals’ 21-7 half-time lead immediately dissolved on the first drive of the second half when Rodgers stepped up in the pocket on the first snap and found another option in tight end Lance Kendricks over the middle. When Kirkpatrick couldn’t bring him down after the catch, Kendricks finished off a 51-yard play with about 30 of them after the catch. Kirkpatrick was called for pass interference in the end zone and then on third down  from the 1, Rodgers dropped back to throw, then looked like he was going to run and Kirkpatrick dropped coverage on Nelson to defend the run. Rodgers flipped it to the wide-open Nelson to make it 21-14 with about 11 minutes left in the third quarter.

The Bengals ended their long national nightmare when their offense came out as hot as the Lambeau turf and  scored their first touchdown of the season just over five minutes into the season’s third game as Dalton Green crossing over the middle on a third-down play from the 10 as the Bengals broke to a 21-7 half-time lead behind Dalton’s two touchdown passes.

The offense got a huge lift from another stingy effort against Rodgers, the Packers’ future Hall-of-Famer. They sacked him five times in the first half and William Jackson’s first NFL interception quickly turned into his first NFL touchdown when he read Rodgers to the right sideline draped on Nelson and he went 75 untouched the other way to give the Bengals a 21-7 lead. It was Cincy’s first pick six in 26 games, since Leon Hall went all the way against the Rams.

The Packers used just two minutes to tie the game at 7 when Bullock put the kickoff out of bounds, cornerback Adam Jones was called for a 33-yard pass interference penalty, and Kirkpatrick’s fumble recovery on the goal line and 52-yard return was overturned by replay. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis then called timeout to run in an extra linebacker on the goal line, but Rodgers’ play-action fake fooled them all and Kendricks was wide open for the tying touchdown on a one-yard flip.

Dalton, who came in with a 47 passer rating, came out sweltering. He clicked on nine of his first 10 throws  for 97 yards for a 147 rating, three going to Green for 40 yards as Dalton worked against a Packers’ dime package crowding the box. He finished the half 12 of 14 for 116 yards and a 140.8 rating while Green had five catches for 53 yards.

New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, exchanging a press-box seat for a sideline stance,  went with a bunch of heavy formations early and he worked the middle of the field with Dalton and they  found Kroft on two of those throws. Jeremy Hill started, but Mixon turned into his go-to-back after his first snap on that first drive, a behind-the-line-swing-pass that went for 20 yards when Mixon made the first guy miss and left guard Clint Boling threw in a block.

Lazor kept it balanced between run and pass, but it didn’t pay off until late in the first quarter. They had five yards rushing on their first 10 carries despite that 20-yarder after Mixon lost six on a sweep. But Dalton again made the Packers pay for the dime when he hit Mixon twice out of the backfield to get the first down, the second on third-and-seven.

Then running back Giovani Bernard ignited the running game with a 25-yard burst up the middle on a counter that pulled Boling and left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi. Then Hill checked back in and pounded them to the 11 on a nine-yard inside bolt before breaking a four-yard run on third-and-one when Dalton took a shot-gun snap and handed it to him. Then Lazor called a couple of crossing routes in the middle of the field and it appeared to spring Bernard, wide open in the left flat and he walked in  from six yards out to make it 14-7 with 12:29 left in the half.

Mixon had 36 yards on 10 carries as the Bengals ran it 18 times for 82 yards in the half after running it an average of 22 times in the first two games.

The offense had a chance to put in the dagger when an eight-yard run by Mixon set up a second-and-two with 4:18 left in the half. But he lost one on the next snap and Bernard got one on third-and-three to force a punt. Then after a sack gave them the ball back at their own 37 with 1:41 left, but they went three-and-out.

Yet the Bengals defense picked up right where its ’09 and ’13 kin left off against Rodgers. They rang up four sacks before the two-minute warning of the first half with Bengals rookie pass rusher Carl Lawson making the Packers’ back-up left tackle pay. Lawson had two of his 2.5 sacks in the half, the second on the last play before the two-minute warning. Rodgers, who owns the greatest home passer rating of all-time, had just a 66.8 rating in the first half on nine of 15 for 73 yards and a touchdown.

PRE-GAME HITS: The Packers deactivated a host of key players while the Bengals offered no surprises with the icing of injured tight end Tyler Eifert and wide receiver John Ross before Sunday’s game that turned out to be the hottest kickoff in Lambeau Field history at 89 degrees.

Joining Eifert and Ross were backup cornerback KeiVarae Russell, backup safety Derron Smith, backup guard Christian Westerman, injured starting right guard Trey Hopkins, and backup wide receiver Josh Malone. T.J. Johnson got his second straight start in place of Hopkins and Tyler Kroft made his 20th start and third straight of the season in place of Eifert.

The Packers, meanwhile, sat down six injured starters, led by their left tackle (David Bakhtiari), best pass rusher (linebacker Nick Perry), and best overall defender (tackle Mike Daniels) as well as their most dangerous wide receiver (Randall Cobb) and a starting cornerback (Davon House).

Second-round pick Kevin King, their first pick, gets the start. Old friend Ahmad Brooks, a 2006 supplemental draft pick of the Bengals who spent his first two years with the club as a middle linebacker, gets the start in place of Perry at right outside. Brooks, in his first season with the Packers, had 12.5 sacks in the previous two years in San Francisco.

BENGALS LINK ARMS:  The Bengals responded to the National Anthem controversy when many of their players linked arms. The club then released a statement: “Football and politics don't mix easily. Fans come to NFL games to watch great competition on the playing field and that's where our focus should be."

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