The Green Bay Packers dealt with seven key players on the inactive list on Sunday, forcing their hand a bit into unpleasant personnel situations in their 27-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. The team made the best of what they had, particularly in the second half as they shuffled the deck a bit due to injuries.
However, the Packers outscored Cincinnati 20-3 after the break, including the game-winning field goal by Mason Crosby in overtime.
Here’s how the playing time broke down on Sunday.
OFFENSE (70 plays)
As usual, quarterback Aaron Rodgers played every snap for the Packers, bouncing back after an early pick-six to finish with a very good passer rating — 102.6 on a stat line of 28/42, 313 yards, three scores, and the interception.
LT Kyle Murphy 70, C Corey Linsley 70, RG Jahri Evans 70, LG Lane Taylor 68, RT Bryan Bulaga 47, RT Justin McCray 25
The Packers got about three quarters out of right tackle Bryan Bulaga on Sunday before he appeared to re-injure his hobbled ankle and had to leave the game. McCray entered in his place, filling in for most of the fourth quarter and all of overtime. McCray also took two snaps at left guard when Taylor briefly left the field.
Ty Montgomery 65, Jamaal Williams 5, FB Aaron Ripkowski 3
Once again, Montgomery was the workhorse, seeing over 90% of the teams snaps. He added another 20 touches, though his eight receptions went for a miserably 15 net yards, fewer than two yards per reception. He even dislocated a finger and missed just a play or two while the medical staff popped it back into place. Meanwhile, Williams received just one carry for six yards and Ripkowski had just a few snaps as a lead blocker, including one on the goal-line when Rodgers threw the Packers’ first touchdown.
Jordy Nelson 67, Davante Adams 67, Geronimo Allison 47
The wideout usage was probably a function of the injuries and some matchup plans with the Bengals more than anything else this week. The Packers never put Trevor Davis or Jeff Janis on the field on offense, instead splitting Martellus Bennett or Montgomery out wide when they decided to spread the field. With Randall Cobb out, the team rotated slot duties among this trio, and each of these receivers was targeted at least six times. Nelson caught a pair of short touchdowns, including the one that allowed Mason Crosby’s PAT to tie the game up with 17 seconds left.
Martellus Bennett 67, Lance Kendricks 19, Richard Rodgers 10
The Packers did use a little bit more of their two-tight end sets this week, but Bennett still got the call for the bulk of the action. He had a couple of drops, though one was erased by a defensive penalty, but caught three passes for a total of just 12 yards.
Kendricks was the offense’s kickstarter, both at the start of the first and third quarters. He drew an early pass interference penalty to get the Packers in scoring range, then paid it off by getting wide open in the end zone for the first score. Then, on the first play of the second half, he broke free as Aaron Rodgers scrambled right, hauling in the football and shaking a few defenders for a 51-yard gain.
DEFENSE (61 plays)
Kenny Clark 43, Dean Lowry 37, Quinton Dial 18, Ricky Jean Francois 12, Montravius Adams 4
Without Mike Daniels, the Packers used one or two defensive linemen on the majority of their plays once again, managing to hold the Bengals to less than four yards per carry on the ground. Clark led the way, with both he and Lowry recording a tackle for loss and generally occupying blockers to help the inside linebackers flow to the football.
Clay Matthews 49, Kyler Fackrell 41, Ahmad Brooks 32, Chris Odom 8
In perhaps a bit of a surprise, Fackrell out-snapped Brooks on the edge, but it was Brooks who made a far bigger impact. He recorded a crucial third-down sack of Andy Dalton and had another would-be sack that resulted in an intentional grounding penalty on the red-haired signal-caller. Matthews followed up a great game in Atlanta with a relatively quiet performance, while Odom recorded a single assisted tackle in his first action on defense this year.
Blake Martinez 47, Joe Thomas 14
The “true” inside linebackers saw their snaps split up just a bit, with Martinez taking the bulk of the reps and Thomas stepping in on obvious passing downs. Blake had far and away his best game as a Packer, however, making eleven tackles including one on the first play of overtime, on which he knifed through the offensive line to bring down Joe Mixon for a two-yard loss. All told, Martinez was extremely active throughout the game in run support and was a big reason why the Bengals’ running game was held mostly in check.
The Packers rotated the snaps at the other inside linebacker spot among their two Nitro safeties, Josh Jones and Morgan Burnett. We’ll address them shortly.
Kevin King 61, Damarious Randall 52, Josh Hawkins 9, Quinten Rollins 7
King played every snap on Sunday and spent most of the day matched up with A.J. Green all over the field. Green caught ten of his 13 targets for 111 yards and a touchdown, though the score came with the Packers in zone coverage and King appropriately passing Green off to other defenders. When Randall needed a breather, Hawkins was the man to sub in for him on the boundary.
Meanwhile, the Packers allowed their safeties to man the slot in this game. Rollins only made a brief appearance in the second half, doing so when Marwin Evans had to leave with cramps. That forced Morgan Burnett back to the strong safety spot from the slot, forcing Rollins to come on for those seven snaps.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 61, Morgan Burnett 61, Josh Jones 61, Marwin Evans 54
As we mentioned above, Evans missed a few snaps with cramps, but otherwise would probably have played every down. That meant that the Packers used Burnett or Jones as a Nitro linebacker on essentially every play. From the first watching of the game, it appeared that Jones was the preferred option in that role, with Burnett primarily playing slot corner and Evans lined up at strong safety.
Jones, of course, was a star around the line of scrimmage, recording 12 tackles and two sacks, plus another tackle for loss and the critical tackle on third down in overtime to force the Bengals to punt.
Stay tuned later today as APC’s Peter Bukowski will address the usage of the safeties moving forward.
(Editor’s note: this article initially left Ricky Jean Francois off the list of defensive linemen. It has since been updated to include the correct information.)