The Cincinnati Bengals got the Bill Lazor era off to a fast start Sunday at Green Bay before eventually wilting in the rare September heat and even rarer talent that is Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers quarterback rallied his team from a 14-point deficit with a pair of second-half touchdown passes, including a 3-yarder to Jordy Nelson with 17 seconds left in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
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The Bengals went three and out to start the extra period, then Rodgers hit Geronimo Allison with a 72-yard pass to set up Mason Crosby’s 27-yard field goal that lifted Green Bay to a 27-24 triumph.
Here are six things to know about the loss that dropped the Bengals to 0-3:
Under the direction of new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who replaced the fired Ken Zampese on Sept. 15, the Bengals gained 167 yards on their first three drives, two of which ended with their first touchdowns of the season.
On those three possessions, they picked up 11 first downs and were 4 of 5 on third down while quarterback Andy Dalton went 9 of 10 for 97 yards and two touchdowns.
And then the offense went into hiding.
Over the final eight drives, the Bengals gained just 134 yards and were 0 of 7 on third down.
Their best chance to convert one came late in the fourth quarter on third and 1 at the Packers 27. But running back Joe Mixon slipped before he could take the handoff, and the Bengals had to settle for a Randy Bullock 46-yard field goal.
Instead of finishing the drive in the end zone to take an 11-point lead, the Bengals went up by seven with 3:46 to go, and Rodgers drove the Packers 75 yards for the game-tying score with 17 seconds left.
“We obviously played better,” Dalton said. “But at the end of the game, we’ve got to find a way to put that away. We know what kind of offense they have. We know what Aaron (Rodgers) can do. Unfortunately we had to slip on third down. Obviously it was good we got the field goal made, but we left too much time for them.”
The offensive lull included a drive with the best starting field position of the game, which came on the final possession of the third quarter when the Bengals took over at the Green Bay 47. But on third and 7 at the 22, Dalton got sacked for an 8-yard loss and Bullock missed a 48-yard field goal that would have given the team a 10-point lead.
Three times this year the Bengals have started a drive in opponent territory, and they’ve failed to score on each of them.
The Bengals sacked Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers six times, with rookie Carl Lawson recording 2.5 of them.
They were the first career sacks for Lawson, who was working against Packers backup left tackle Kyle Murphy with Pro Bowler David Bakhtiari out with a hamstring injury. Lawson, according to pro-football-reference.com, became the first rookie since 2002 and 11th overall to have at least 2.5 sacks in one of the first three games of his career.
Lawson had another sack wiped out when cornerback William Jackson was a tick late getting to the sideline, resulting in a penalty for 12 men on the field.
Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson and Darqueze Dennard also had sacks, while Chris Smith had 0.5, sharing the lone one in the second half with Lawson.
Geno Atkins’ sack streak of six consecutive games with at least half a sack came to an end.
The Bengals had been 5-1 under Marvin Lewis when recording at least six sacks in a game.
For Rodgers, it was only the second time in his career he was sacked at least five times in the first half.
The big question with Lazor taking over as coordinator was whether he continue to employ a three-man rotation at running back with Jeremy Hill, Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard.
All three continued to play, but Mixon emerged as the feature back for the first time as he was on the field for 34 of the team’s 61 snaps while logging 18 of the group’s 28 carries. It was the first time the rookie played more than half of the snaps.
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But another three-man rotation emerged debuted on the offensive line, with veteran Andre Smith alternating between giving breathers to left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and right tackle Jake Fisher.
Head coach Marvin Lewis attributed it to the heat, with the game-time temperature being 89 degrees, making it the warmest game in the 60-year history of Lambeau Field.
“We went into the game just knowing it was going to be a warm day,” Lewis said. “And we played everybody just about and did that on both offense and defense and special teams and receivers and everybody. We knew it was going to be a warm day.”
The 72-yard pass Rodgers threw to Geronimo Allison on third and 10 in overtime set up the game-winning field goal and was one of three pass plays of at least 41 yards allowed by a Bengals defense that came into the game ranked No. 1 in the league against the pass.
Rodgers also completed a 51-yarder to Lance Kendricks on the first play of the second half. Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick whiffed on a tackle that would have limited the gain to 20 yards. Instead, Kendricks ran to the Cincinnati 24, and a few plays later Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson for a 1-yard touchdown that cut the Cincinnati lead to 21-14.
The last time the Bengals allowed two pass plays of at least 51 yards in the same game was Dec. 5, 2010, in a 34-30 loss to the Saints when Drew Brees tossed a pair of 52-yarders to Jimmy Graham and Robert Meachem.
Rodgers also hit Davante Adams for a 41-yard gain in the second quarter. The last time the Bengals gave up three pass plays of at least 41 yards was that same Saints game in 2010, as Meachem also had a 42-yard catch.
A.J. Green’s 10-yard touchdown reception on the first drive of the game was the 50th of his career in his 89th game.
He would reach another milestone later in the game with his 500th reception. It was a 20-yard gain with 8:17 left in regulation to extend the team’s final scoring drive of the game.
Green joins Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison and Larry Fitzgerald as the only players in NFL history with at least 500 catches and 50 touchdown receptions in his first 90 games.
Green finished with 10 receptions for 111 yards. It was the 29th 100-yard game of his career, leaving him two shy of Chad Johnson’s franchise record.
Cornerback William Jackson’s first career interception was a memorable one as he returned it 75 yards for a touchdown to give the Bengals a 21-7 lead in the fourth quarter.
It was just the second pick-6 in 5,353 career throws by Rodgers, and the first since 2009.
Jackson had Green Bay wide receiver Jordy Nelson blanketed on a third-and-6 play, but Rodgers tried to force the ball in. Jackson stepped in front of Nelson and went untouched up the right sideline to give the Bengals at two-touchdown lead with 10:20 left in the second quarter.