CINCINNATI—The Packers got their mojo back.
“I think we did enough to satisfy coach. I think we’re going to be ready,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said following the Packers’ 27-13 win over the Bengals on Thursday night at Paul Brown Stadium.
It was the Packers’ first win of the preseason following disappointing performances against the Chargers and Browns. Needing to get back to the kind of play that led the Packers to a 15-1 record in 2011, Rodgers and the offense led the way in an up-tempo attack that featured two touchdown runs by Rodgers.
Even though Rodgers’ 52 yards rushing led the Packers, it was newly-acquired running back Cedric Benson’s 38 yards on six carries that seemed to pump new life into a previously moribund Packers running game.
“I thought Cedric looked natural running the ball. He’s an instinctive, powerful ball carrier. Any time you have another weapon in your offense, it helps,” McCarthy said.
Rodgers completed 12 of 22 passes for 154 yards. He threw one interception.
“I just threw a real bad ball,” Rodgers said.
Otherwise, everything about his play and the play of the first team offense and defense through a half of action was impressive.
“I thought the first team moved the ball, was productive. It starts with Aaron. He did a very good job of pulling the ball down and making things happen with his feet,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said.
The defense got into the act when linebacker Erik Walden led a goal-line stand at the 1-yard line. On third down, Walden sacked Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, forcing a 30-yard field goal. Dalton completed only five of 17 passes for 40 yards.
“I thought the whole football team improved today. I thought the defense and the whole team had a lot of bounce, a lot of juice. I thought we played smart. I was very impressed with the defense,” McCarthy said.
Walden is competing with first-round draft pick Nick Perry for playing time at outside linebacker.
“I think he’s had a heckuva camp. I’m sure he’ll grade out very well tonight,” McCarthy said of Walden.
Backup quarterback Graham Harrell struggled through the second half, completing only five of 12 passes for 26 yards, but McCarthy explained that injuries to tight ends Tom Crabtree and Ryan Taylor sabotaged the Packers’ game plan.
“Our offensive plan for our No. 2 group went out the window with our tight end situation. That’s something you won’t see but we’ll take into consideration with his grade,” McCarthy said, referring to Harrell.
The Packers were without starting tight end Jermichael Finley, who left the team in Cincinnati to be with his wife when she went into labor. Tight end D.J. Williams was out of action with an injury.
At 1-2, the Packers have one preseason game remaining, against visiting Kansas City, but the attention turns to the regular-season opener against the San Francisco 49ers.
“The bigger objective is the evaluation of our team,” McCarthy said of what remains of the preseason.
What was important last night was getting ready for the games that count.
“We got better today, so we’re definitely a step closer to being ready for the regular season than when we left Green Bay. That was the goal,” McCarthy said.