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Packers beat Bengals 36-19 behind big plays and a good start from Jordan Love

Green Bay got a handful of explosive plays from its reserves after Love gave the team an early lead.

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Green Bay Packers’ preseason opener was a success on Friday night. Jordan Love and the starters played two series and looked solid, scoring a touchdown and escaping Cincinnati without any significant injuries to players atop the depth chart.

The backups came on midway through the first quarter and led the Packers to a 36-19 victory over the Bengals, thanks in part to some big plays from young receivers and running backs. One spark plug was reserve running back Emanuel Wilson, who delivered an 80-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach, while 5th-round pick Dontayvion Wicks made the game’s biggest play in the passing game with a 47-yard gain to set up a score late in the second quarter.

Sean Clifford’s first audition for the backup quarterback job was a mixed bag. He completed a solid 20 out of 26 pass attempts for 208 yards and a touchdown, but two of those six incompletions were interceptions, one that went back for a score the other way. Clifford did show good mobility as well, however, scrambling for multiple first downs.

Defensively, the Packers’ young secondary showed flashes of brilliance. One rookie had an interception while several others made nice plays on the football. Brenton Cox, Jr. was also a highlight, tipping a pass that led to another pick and making some impact plays on special teams. A major question mark on Friday, however, was kicker Anders Carlson, who missed two PATs in the late stages of the game.

Still, on Friday the Packers looked like a team with some quality depth in numerous areas, an encouraging sign for a squad that will be forced to rely on young players up and down the roster this season.

The Packers let Jordan Love play just two series in this game, but he left the game on a positive note. After picking up a first down on a pass to Luke Musgrave early, Love missed a deep shot to Christian Watson and then missed Musgrave on third down to bring up a punt. But after a quick three-and-out by the Bengals, Love got the Packers moving on a short field.

Starting from the Bengals’ 43-yard line, Love connected with Jordan Reed and Christian Watson to move the chains, then got an 11-yard run from AJ Dillon to approach the red zone. After hitting Romeo Doubs for 12 yards to get inside the 10, Love went back to Doubs in the left side of the end zone for a touchdown, sending the starters of after taking a 7-0 lead. Love looked comfortable and confident early, and his numbers reflected that with a 7-for-10 performance for 46 yards and the score.

Following those first two drives and a field goal by the Bengals, the Packers turned the keys over to rookie quarterback Sean Clifford, who hit on a big play in his first NFL pass attempt. That went for a 25-yard gain to Samori Toure to get the Packers across midfield. Rookie wideout Jayden Reed made a pair of big plays later on the drive, first picking up 15 yards and then drawing a pass interference penalty in the end zone to set Green Bay up on the one-yard line. Tyler Goodson punched the ball across the goal line on the next play for a touchdown to extend the Packers’ lead to 14-3.

Cincinnati put up another field goal on their next series, which was spurred by a 33-yard run from Chris Evans, then got their first touchdown on a pick-six of Clifford. The rookie quarterback was pressured and threw late to the right hash, but safety Tycen Anderson jumped Dontayvion Wicks’ route and ran 43 yards untouched into the end zone. A turnover on downs on the next series — which saw Clifford throwing deep to rookie Malik Heath on 4th-and-5 — led to another Bengals field goal just inside the two-minute warning.

The final two minutes were chaotic, however, as Clifford threw another interception to Tycen Anderson as he stared down tight end Tucker Kraft. However, another Packers rookie, cornerback Carrington Valentine, returned the favor with an interception of his own, picking off Jake Browning two plays later. That set up the Packers at their own 34-yard line with 47 seconds to go, and that number was immediately relevant as Clifford hit Wicks over the middle for a 47-yard catch-and-run. After a 15-yard scramble, Clifford then found Tyler Davis at the goal line for a 5-yard touchdown, giving the Packers the lead back at 21-16 just before the half.

The Packers’ offense bogged down for much of the third quarter, however, thanks in large part to some struggles by the offensive line. Royce Newman was called for a hold that erased a 30-yard run by Patrick Taylor, while Sean Rhyan struggled to move players up front in the run game as well. The defense got some big plays from the reserve edge rushers, however, with Brenton Cox, Jr. tipping a pass at the line of scrimmage that went for an interception by Dallin Leavitt and Keyshawn Banks stuffing running back Chase Brown in the backfield for a 5-yard loss. The Bengals got a few big plays on a drive late in the quarter, however, as Andrei Iosivas and Brown each recording gains of 20-plus yards in the passing game to set up yet another field goal.

Clifford and the offense responded with another touchdown, however, on another quick drive. Malik Heath made a great fingertip catch over the middle, then Clifford scrambled for a first down and got a generous late hit out of bounds penalty on the Bengals for good measure. The third and final play of the drive saw Emmanuel Wilson run over the left guard for a 9-yard touchdown, extending the Packers’ lead to two possessions. Anders Carlson missed the extra point, however, keeping the score to 11 points at 30-19.

Wilson would deliver a lightning strike in the fourth quarter as well. After a Bengals punt went for a touchback, Wilson took a first-down handoff up the middle and bounced outside the right tackle, angling towards the sideline. He was able to beat the linebacker to the corner and turned on the jets, outracing everyone to the end zone for an 80-yard touchdown.

Watch the play here, and watch Rhyan alertly make a nice play, picking up enough of a chip on a blitzing linebacker to free up Wilson:

Carlson missed his second straight extra point, however, a discouraging sign after he hit his first two PATs and a 45-yard field goal earlier in the night.

Alex McGough finally came on late in the fourth quarter, but after two handoffs, his first dropback was a disaster. A Bengals pass-rusher got around left tackle Kadeem Telfort and caught McGough from behind, stripping the football for the Bengals’ third turnover of the day.

Green Bay got a pass breakup from cornerback William Hooper on 4th and 3 late in the fourth quarter to allow the team to kneel out the clock on a 36-19 victory. That continued a trend that this team saw throughout the game: good ball skills by their young defensive backs. Indeed, the Packers got impressive plays on the football from several of their young secondary players. Valentine had the aforementioned interception, while safeties Anthony Johnson and Benny Sapp III both had near-picks of their own — Johnson saw the ball pop out when he landed on the ground and Sapp came down out of bounds, but both of those came after impressive efforts to break on the football.

Next Week

The Packers will return home to host the New England Patriots next week for a series of joint practices and the teams’ second preseason game. Kickoff will be at 7:00 PM Central Time on Saturday, August 19th.


The Packers saw a handful of players leave the game with injuries, unfortunately, including four players on the offense. Running back Tyler Goodson suffered a shoulder injury in the second quarter, while Caleb Jones left the game and did not return due to an ankle injury. On a more serious note, two offensive players had to be carted off: offensive tackle Luke Tenuta (ankle) and tight end Tyler Davis (knee). Additionally, cornerback Corey Ballentine suffered a stinger in the third quarter and also did not return to the game.