CINCINNATI—The Packers scored their first win of the preseason, but it was their dominant performance in the first half that gave Coach Mike McCarthy’s team and its fans something about which to cheer. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers led a resurgent offense to a 17-6 halftime lead, en route to a 27-13 win over the Bengals on Thursday night at Paul Brown Stadium.
Rodgers completed 12 of 22 passes for 154 yards. He was intercepted once, on a play in which it appeared he and wide receiver James Jones had miscommunicated. Most impressively, Rodgers ran with the ball six times for 52 yards and two touchdowns. On the first of those touchdown runs, a 12-yard dash, Rodgers outran Bengals cornerback Nate Clements to the end zone.
It was Rodgers’ best game of the preseason and assured Packers fans he’s ready for the start of the regular season and the Packers opening-day opponent, the San Francisco 49ers. His performance against the Bengals resembled that which won him the league MVP award last season.
Newly-acquired running back Cedric Benson showed some pop in rushing six times for 38 yards. Rodgers found wide receivers Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson each for a couple of receptions, further sending the signal the Packers offense is back on track. The lone negative was a significant pass rush by the Bengals that sacked Rodgers once and chased him from the pocket often.
The high point of the first half for the defense was a goal-line stand at the Packers 1-yard line, in which outside linebacker Erik Walden starred. Walden sacked quarterback Andy Dalton for a 9-yard loss on third and goal from the 3-yard line, to force a 30-yard field goal. Dalton completed only five of 17 passes for 40 yards in the first half.
Backup quarterback Graham Harrell struggled, completing just five of 12 passes for 26 yards. He led the Packers to a short field goal drive in the fourth quarter. Reserve linebacker Jamari Lattimore capped the scoring with a 27-yard return of an interception. It’s a play that’ll certainly help his cause as NFL teams head into a mandatory roster cut to 75 players on Monday.
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