The Green Bay Packers came back from a two-touchdown deficit at Lambeau Field on Sunday afternoon, beating the Cincinnati Bengals 27-24 in an overtime thriller. Aaron Rodgers deserves plenty of credit for helping lead the Packers back in this victory, but as usual we will assign game balls to a handful of the other non-quarterback players who were critical to the victory.
First up is a pair of young players on the defense who were instrumental in the defense’s performance in the second half and overtime, as the team allowed just a field goal after the break.
The rookie safety had one glaring mistake — passing off running back Giovani Bernard in man coverage for a six-yard touchdown. Other than that, Jones showed that he absolutely earned the extended playing time he was given this week. Beyond just the tackle totals — he had twelve total, and eleven solo tackles — he recorded two sacks of Andy Dalton, both on third downs, plus a third tackle for loss. This performance came in a game in which he essentially took over as a starter with Kentrell Brice out, playing primarily Nitro linebacker and spending some time in the slot as well. To put a cap on his fantastic day, he made a huge tackle on third down in overtime to force a punt by the Bengals, which led to the Packers’ winning score.
All told, his excellent performance came one week after Kevin King had a similarly exciting game, and should give the Packers still more confidence in their rookie defensive backs moving forward.
As the primary inside linebacker once again, Martinez had almost certainly his best game since the Packers drafted him in 2016. He was responsible for a whopping eleven tackles, including seven solo stops, and one tackle for loss, though he probably should have been credited with a couple more. He was aggressive in his run fits and made a key tackle on A.J. Green, but his biggest play came on the first snap of overtime when he made a 2-yard tackle for loss on Joe Mixon to set the tone for the extra period.
Basically all of the Packers’ big plays in the first 31 minutes of the game came courtesy of Kendricks. He caught the first touchdown of the game for the Packers, a one-yard floater from Aaron Rodgers, and helped set up that score as his route drew a defensive pass interference penalty on Adam Jones (although it was a questionable call). Then, on the first play of the second half, Kendricks came back to a scrambling Aaron Rodgers, catching #12’s pass and rumbling down the field for a 51-yard gain.
Although Jordy Nelson got a pair of touchdown catches, Allison also stepped up with a couple of huge plays late in the game. One play after a brutal drop, Allison made a brilliant catch along the sideline to move the chains on the Packers’ game-tying drive. He then made the play of the day for the offense, breaking free down the left sideline and hauling in a bomb from Rodgers, then scampering for an extra 30 yards to put the Packers in position to kick the winning field goal.
All told, Allison recorded six receptions for 112 yards, but he did most of that damage in the second half as he had just one catch for 10 yards prior to halftime.