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Packers Survive Another Crazy Day in Cincinnati

Every eight years, Aaron Rodgers brings the Green Bay Packers to Cincinnati and chaos results.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – In Cincinnati, the chili is served atop spaghetti noodles.

That’s crazy, but perhaps not as crazy as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ infrequent visits to face the Cincinnati Bengals.

In 2005, with the Green Bay Packers trying to drive to the tying score in the waning moments, a fan ran onto the field and stole the ball from Brett Favre. Cincinnati held on to win 21-14.

In 2013, the Packers fell behind 14-0 in the first 6 minutes, responded by scoring 30 consecutive points, then lost the game when Johnathan Franklin’s fourth-down fumble was returned by Terence Newman for a touchdown.

On Sunday, the Packers survived three missed field goals by Mason Crosby in a span of about 4 minutes of regulation and overtime to win 25-22.

“It’s definitely not the craziest Cincinnati game,” Rodgers said. “2005 for sure beats this one, partly because of the final score and also the guy running out of the stands and taking the ball from Favre and having a nice zig-zag. I’m sure he’s still around and out of jail. He enjoyed the ego boost this week.”

For Rodgers, many of his 130 regular-season victories have been more stylistically pleasing. For all the excellence displayed by Rodgers, who was 27-of-39 passing for 344 yards and two touchdowns, and Davante Adams, who was unstoppable with 11 receptions for a career-high 206 yards and one touchdown, Green Bay’s offense once again was a lot like those noodles in the Cincinnati chili: full of empty calories.

Green Bay’s third-down offense was a woeful 4-of-11 (36.4 percent). Its red-zone offense, perhaps the best in NFL history last season, went 2-of-4 (50.0 percent) after entering the day tied for 20th at 60.0 percent. It added up to 466 yards but only two touchdowns.

Thus, while Green Bay crossed midfield on 11 of its 12 possessions (not counting its one play “drive” to end the first half), it escaped with a victory only because Crosby beat Evan McPherson in a game of missed-kick roulette.

“Both teams tried to lose that game multiple times,” Rodgers said.

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When it was time to win the game, it was as if these teams were 1-3 rather than 3-1.

After Cincinnati tied the game 22-22, Rodgers missed Adams for what should have been a touchdown and Crosby missed a 36-yard field goal with 2:12 remaining. McPherson blasted the right upright from 57 yards with 21 seconds to go. That gave Rodgers and Adams time to give Crosby another shot, but his 51-yarder drifted just a bit to the left as time expired.

On the first play of overtime, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow played catch with linebacker De’Vondre Campbell for an interception. Setting up shop at the Bengals’ 17, two running plays lost 5 yards and Crosby pulled a 40-yarder to the left. Then, McPherson celebrated his 49-yard field goal that missed just a bit to the left.

It was a moment that encapsulated everything that had just happened.

Naturally, Rodgers leaned on his big guns to set up the winning score – a 20-yard screen to Marcedes Lewis and a 15-yard completion to Randall Cobb. Finally, Crosby made a 49-yard field goal to end the insanity.

“No, I’ve never been a part of a game like this,” Campbell said. “That just goes to show the type of men we have in our locker room. Nobody flinched. Nobody complained. Nobody did anything but their job and we were able to handle business and get the victory. That’s what good football teams do. They find a way to get it done. It’s not going to always be pretty, but you’ve got to find a way to get a win, especially in a hostile environment, an away game against a good football team, we were able to get it done. That’s huge and it will definitely help continue for us to build momentum going forward.”

That last sentence, really, is the takeaway from Sunday. Last season, of Green Bay’s 13 wins, nine came by 14-plus points.

These Packers are winning with guts and grit. Maybe, if they can get healthy, they can win with skill later.

“There’s nothing like winning,” Rodgers said. “I’m proud of the guys. I’m proud of the defense, especially, the way they kept stepping up, lot of three-and-outs in the first half, a couple big turnovers at important times. We didn’t trail after we kicked a field goal at 9-7, which was really important mentally for us. So, I’m really proud of the way those guys battled. They deserve a lot of credit, as does Joe (Barry) and his staff. That was a fun one. You’re hugging guys who you might not even know their first and last names sometimes.”

That’s crazy – perhaps not as crazy as the pairing of chili and spaghetti – but that is the story of the 2021 Green Bay Packers.