Patriots

INTERCONFERENCE: Rodgers burns Bengals deep in OT, Packers win, 27-24

packers_bengals_aaron_rodgers_092417.jpg

INTERCONFERENCE: Rodgers burns Bengals deep in OT, Packers win, 27-24

GREEN BAY, Wis. - Aaron Rodgers burned another defense deep with a free play. The Cincinnati Bengals found their offense and a new way to lose.

Mason Crosby kicked a 27-yard field goal with 6:26 left in overtime set up by Rodgers' 72-yard pass to Geronimo Allison, and the Green Bay Packers rallied to beat Cincinnati 27-24 on Sunday.

Crosby's kick completed the Packers' comeback from a 21-7 halftime deficit.

On third-and-10 from his 21, Rodgers took advantage of yet another free play after defensive end Michael Johnson was whistled for offside. Officials let the play continue and the two-time NFL MVP found Allison on about a 40-yard pass before the receiver beat a couple defenders for more yards.

"Luckily I put it in a good spot and G-Mo did the rest," Rodgers said.

Crosby, a veteran kicker, finished it off for the Packers (2-1).

The winless Bengals (0-3) won the toss in overtime but went three-and-out on their opening drive. It was so loud at Lambeau Field that they had to call timeout before their first overtime snap.

Rodgers thrived under the pressure.

He connected with Jordy Nelson for a 3-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 24. Cornerback Dre Kilpatrick narrowly missed batting away the bullet thrown by the quarterback into the front right corner of the end zone.

"We rushed the quarterback, keeping him in. We did a lot, but when we broke down, (Rodgers) made plays," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said.

Rodgers finished 28 of 42 for 313 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Allison had six catches for 122 yards.

"I thought Aaron played one of his best games," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I thought he was tremendous today."

The Packers flipped the script after the Bengals controlled the first half.

A.J. Green caught a 10-yard scoring pass on the game's opening drive for Cincinnati's first touchdown after two frustrating weeks for the offense. Bill Lazor made his debut as offensive coordinator for the fired Ken Zampese.

Andy Dalton was 21 of 27 for 212 yards and two scores. The Bengals were desperate to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2008. But they couldn't finish the Packers off in the second half.

"A disappointment is not finishing a football game now," Lewis said.

Green Bay's defense generated a little more pressure on Dalton in the second half, and rookie safety Josh Jones gave the injury-laden defense a boost with two sacks and 12 tackles.

Rodgers shook off his early struggles to guide the Packers to another win. He was sacked six times, mostly against just the Bengals' four-man rush, though the protection shored up after halftime.

Rodgers threw just his second career pick-six - and his first at home - when William Jackson returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown for a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter.

"Oh, we took a step as a football team," McCarthy said. "This always pays forward when you go through adversity and you have success."

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady is on pace for 5,224 yards passing in 2017, just a shade under his total from his career-high in 2011. He's on track to have 34 touchdowns and just five picks. Barring a continued run of ridiculous efficiency from Kansas City's Alex Smith, those numbers would be MVP-caliber in all likelihood.

But Brady's not thrilled with the way he's played of late. What gives? 

MORE PATRIOTS:

In his past two games, he hasn't thrown the football as consistently as he would have liked. After starting the season with a 10-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he's 3-to-2 in the last couple of weeks. His accuracy has been at times pinpoint (as it was on his 42-yard completion to Brandin Cooks to help set up a Rob Gronkowski score against the Jets), but it has also been uncharacteristically erratic.

He was picked deep down the middle of the field by Buster Skrine last week, but the more concerning throw may have been the quick out-route to Gronkowski that Skrine dropped for what should have been an easy interception. Brady missed Phillip Dorsett on what looked like it could have been a long touchdown with Dorsett running free behind the defense. He threw behind Chris Hogan twice in the game, one of which opened up Hogan to a rib-shot that landed him on the injury report this week.

Against the Jets, Brady was not sacked and he was hit only four times -- a light day for him compared to other weeks this season when he's been battered. Yet he still completed just under 53 percent of his passes for 257 yards and a season-low 6.76 yards per attempt. 

"Well, I've got to hit the open . . . If the throws are there I've got to be able to make them," he said on Friday. "It's disappointing when I don't. To me, it just comes back to technique and fundamentals and making sure everything is working and that's the consistent daily thing that you're working on. I'm always working on my accuracy.

"I wish I hit them all. I'm capable of hitting them all and I need to be able to do that. I said last week that some of these games wouldn't be as close if I was playing better in the red area. I think some of those missed opportunities in the pass game with me hitting guys would really help our team. Hopefully, I can do a better job for this team."

Brady is no longer listed on the Patriots injury report, but he dealt with a left shoulder injury against both the Bucs and the Jets, and it's worth wondering if that somehow impacted how his passes traveled in those games. Balance is key in Brady's world, and even though he can make flat-footed throws look easy, perhaps an injury to his front side limited his ability to place the ball where he wanted. 

Keeping Brady upright could go a long way in helping the 40-year-old regain his form from Weeks 2-4 when he didn't dip below a 104 quarterback rating. Bill Belichick said earlier this week that part of the reason the Jets pass-rush wasn't quite as effective as others they'd faced this year was his team's ability to run the ball. Productive rushing attempts on first and second down mean manageable third downs, which mean shorter pass attempts. Those of course, in theory, lead to less time standing in the pocket and a healthier quarterback.

"It's great," Brady said of his team's recent surge running the football. "I mean, to be able to run the ball consistently in the NFL is important for every offense. It does take a lot of . . . I wouldn't say pressure, it's just production. If 400 yards of offense is what you're looking for and you can get 150 from your running game, the 250 has got to come in the passing game. If you're getting 50 yards in the rushing game then it means you've got to throw for more.

"I don't think it's pressure it's just overall you're going to get production in different areas and the backs are a big part of our offense and handing the ball off to them is an easy way for us to gain yards if we're all coordinated and doing the right thing. But those guys are running hard. The line is doing a great job up front finishing blocks and so forth."

Against the Falcons and their talented -- though underperforming -- offense this weekend, the running game could be key. First, it could help the Patriots defense by controlling possession and keeping Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman off the field. Next are the obvious advantages for the signal-caller who could use a stress-free day in the pocket to help him solve his recent accuracy issues. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE