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Mel Kiper Jr. is right: the Green Bay Packers should address their pass rush in the first round of this year’s NFL draft.

It’s why the ESPN draft analyst has the Packers taking defensive end Marcus Davenport of UT-San Antonio with their first-round pick, No. 14 overall, in his first mock draft of 2018.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder who had 21.5 career sacks in college was the second pure pass rusher to come off Kiper’s board. The other, N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb, went No. 3 to the Colts. Kiper also had a linebacker — Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, who’s a potential pass rusher — at No. 12 to the Bengals.

Either way, the Packers would be getting one of the top pass rushers in the draft.

But they shouldn’t stop there. Not with how bereft they were of edge rushers this past season. They had only two players with more than five sacks, and none even came close to double digits. Clay Matthews led the team with 7.5, and Nick Perry had 7.

Matthews will turn 32 this offseason and is entering the final season of his contract. He underwent knee surgery already this offseason and missed two games in 2017 because of other injuries.

Perry, who signed a five-year, $60 million deal, couldn’t follow up his career-best season in 2016 (when he had 11 sacks). He reverted to his oft-injured ways, missing four games.

It’s why new general manager Brian Gutekunst might have to go all-in on pass rushers early in the draft, unless he’s able to find at least one impact rusher in free agency. His predecessor, Ted Thompson, ignored the position in free agency last year until he signed Ahmad Brooks (who had 1.5 sacks all season) at the end of the preseason. He waited until the fourth round of the draft to take an edge rusher, Wisconsin outside linebacker Vince Biegel, whose foot surgery last May all but ruined his rookie year.

It wouldn’t be an upset if Gutekunst drafted multiple pass rushers in this draft. He watched his old boss, Thompson, take defensive backs with his first two picks last year (cornerback Kevin King and safety Josh Jones).

For what it’s worth, Kiper had the Packers taking running back Christian McCaffrey a year ago at this time in his first mock draft of 2017. McCaffrey ended up going much higher, at No. 8 overall to Carolina, and Kiper’s mocks will surely change as draft season progresses.

Fellow ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay’s first 2018 mock draft had the Packers taking a pass rusher, Boston College outside linebacker Harold Landry. Kiper had Landry at No. 25 to the Titans in his first mock.

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The Green Bay Packers are only halfway to fixing their problems on defense.

The decision to change coordinators was the first step. Packers coach Mike McCarthy fired Dom Capers after Sunday’s season-ending loss at Detroit.

Whether it was Capers, the revered Fritz Shurmur or the inventive Buddy Ryan, it might not have mattered who devised defensive game plans and called plays for the Packers. The resources weren’t there.

Like most things in the NFL, it comes down to playmakers.

And that’s where general manager Ted Thompson failed Capers. Yes, Thompson devoted draft pick after draft pick to the defensive side of the ball, yet a dearth of impact players still exists.

Despite what coaches will say, the NFL isn’t about depth. Teams can lose players in bunches, but as long as they have one or two more difference-makers than everyone else, it doesn’t matter.

Quickly scan the Packers’ defensive depth chart — and consider the players on injured reserve, too — and it explains why Capers’ unit ranked 22nd in the NFL this season and hasn’t been in the top 10 since the Super Bowl season of 2010.

That Super Bowl defense had impact players at every level. There was B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett on the front line, and Clay Matthews and Desmond Bishop at linebacker. The secondary was loaded with talent — Charles Woodson, Nick Collins, Tramon Williams and a young Sam Shields.

Like this season, that Super Bowl team faced injuries in mass quantities, but the injured-reserve list isn’t about numbers but rather names. There were so many playmakers on the 53-man roster that it didn’t matter who was on 15-man IR list.

That defense, also coordinated by Capers, ranked No. 5 overall and came up with key takeaways in every postseason game, including Collins’ interception return for a touchdown early and the Matthews/Pickett forced fumble late in the Super Bowl.

What did Capers have to work with this season?

The veterans among his group were an aged Matthews, who still plays with high energy but hasn’t been as effective; an oft-injured Nick Perry, who was a risk to re-sign last year in free agency; an inconsistent Mike Daniels up front and Morgan Burnett, who for all his versatility in the secondary is a jack of all trades but master of none.

The secondary was supposed to be built around Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who made his first Pro Bowl in 2016. But he inexplicably regressed. Veteran cornerback Davon House provided the steady play the Packers expected when they signed him to a one-year deal in free agency, and he battled gallantly through injuries, but the young defensive backs were either too inconsistent (Damarious Randall and Josh Jones) or too injured (Kevin King and Quinten Rollins).

The best prospect Thompson acquired on defense is Kenny Clark, the 2016 first-round pick who finished the season strong with 4.5 sacks in the final five games.

It’s not like Thompson ignored that side of the ball and tried to load up with weapons for Aaron Rodgers, although perhaps that would have been a better roster-building strategy.

In his 13th draft as GM last year, Thompson used his first four picks on defensive players: King and Jones in the second round, defensive tackle Montravius Adams in the third and linebacker Vince Biegel in the fourth. King didn’t have an interception before he went on injured reserve in need of shoulder surgery, and Jones had just one. Adams and Biegel were non-factors after both suffered offseason foot injuries.

Assuming Clinton-Dix bounces back next season, it’s not a stretch to say he and Clark are the only two defensive picks in the past five drafts that could be considered young defensive playmakers.

As much as coaching has been to blame for the Packers’ defensive struggles, the shortcomings in personnel remain as big an issue — if not bigger — for a defense that’s now in transition.

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It’s a good thing this was a meaningless game for the Green Bay Packers, given their inactive and injury lists.

Or maybe the Packers shut down so many key players before things started Saturday night against the Minnesota Vikings because it was meaningless.

Either way, what looked like a marquee Week 16 game in prime time when the NFL released its 2017 schedule in April turned into a glorified exhibition game, with players looking to make an impression for next season and coaches perhaps trying to justify their employment.

Yet very few did.

Other than Kenny Clark, the second-year defensive tackle who had a couple of sacks — giving him 4.5 for the season, all of which have come in the month of December — and first-year outside linebacker Reggie Gilbert, who was promoted this week from the practice squad and hit Vikings quarterback Case Keenum more than once, there wasn’t much anyone could claim as progress in the Packers’ 16-0 loss at Lambeau Field.

The Packers were shut out at home for a second time this season. Before this year, no team had been shut out at home twice in a season since 2006, when both the Packers and Raiders were.

“I never felt more defeated, more embarrassed by a performance,” said Packers receiver Randall Cobb, who had four catches for 22 yards. “Yeah, we had opportunities, and we didn’t connect when we did.”

Quarterback Brett Hundley, making his eighth start of the season, did nothing to change the narrative that he isn’t capable of taking over a game. He threw two interceptions, which means his home season ended with zero touchdowns and seven interceptions at Lambeau.

Dropping to 3-5 as a starter, Hundley failed to throw a touchdown pass at Lambeau Field once again. He set the record for pass attempts at home without a touchdown (162) in a single season, according to Elias. Along the way, he threw his third red zone interception this season, tied with Dak Prescott for the second-most in the NFL. Only (six) has thrown more red zone picks, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

In Hundley’s defense, the Packers dropped six of his passes, their most since Week 15 of 2014 at Buffalo, another game in which they dropped six, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

When it comes to the roster, general manager Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy likely wanted to use this game — and the regular-season finale next Sunday at Detroit — to evaluate who stays and who goes in the offseason.

But after missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 2009, McCarthy might have already made up his mind about changes to his coaching staff, even though Dom Capers’ defense looked respectable for a change. Still, the most likely change this offseason would be at defensive coordinator, unless, of course, team president Mark Murphy decides it’s time for Thompson to go.

Yes, the game was surprisingly still in play into the fourth quarter, as ugly as it was for the Packers’ offense, with five starters on the inactive list: receiver Davante Adams (concussion), linebackers Nick Perry (ankle/shoulder) and Clay Matthews (hamstring), cornerback Damarious Randall (knee) and guard Jahri Evans (knee). That did not include Aaron Rodgers, who went on injured reserve earlier in the week after the Packers decided to shut him down the week after he returned from his broken collarbone.

Who knows how many, if any, of those players could have played if the Packers were still in the playoff race? Then it didn’t get any better when receiver Jordy Nelson (shoulder), tight end Richard Rodgers (shoulder), running back Aaron Jones (knee) and right tackle Jason Spriggs (knee) were lost during the game.

“I mean, it’s really hard,” Hundley said. “When you’ve got two big studs [Adams and Nelson] out there and then you lose them. Your right tackle goes down on the first play, then your running back goes out. I mean, it becomes really hard, but at the same time, a lot of people got reps and experience, and you’ve got find a way to win. That’s the name of the game.

“Defense played their butts off. Offense, we didn’t capitalize on the plays we needed to, and that starts with me. I’ve got to be able to lead this team no matter who’s on the field and get us in better opportunities to put some points on the board.”

As bad as Saturday night’s game looked with all those players out, the finale in Detroit might be even tougher to watch.

“We’ve got to play better,” Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said. “We have to find ways to win ballgames. We won’t take credit for anything. We’ve just got to continue to stay together, man, find ways to win ballgames, I guess. There’s a lot of things going on down here in this locker room, a lot of guys banged up, a lot of guys not playing, a lot of guys not putting their best foot forward. We’ve just got to hold guys accountable. The ones that step on the field with us, let’s go to work. The ones that don’t want to play, just turn your pads in and wait for next year.”

 

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The Green Bay Packers’ best offense without Aaron Rodgers might be their running game.

If they have any running backs left.

They nearly ran out in Sunday’s 23-16 win at Chicago, and it might make life without their two-time NFL MVP quarterback even tougher than it’s already been if they can’t get Aaron Jones or Ty Montgomery back soon.

On a day when the Packers lost their top two running backs — Jones to a potentially serious knee injury and Montgomery to another rib injury — they answered questions about whether they could win a game with Brett Hundley as their quarterback, even if Hundley didn’t make many game-changing plays.

For the first time since Rodgers broke his collarbone in Week 6, Hundley was the more effective quarterback — but just barely. He made two of the best throws of his three starts to put the game away — a 19-yard back-shoulder touchdown in the fourth quarter to Davante Adams, who has the only two touchdowns that Hundley has thrown since he took over, and a 42-yarder to Adams on third-and-10 with two minutes to play.

Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky made the same mistakes that have hampered Hundley of late — the most egregious of which was holding onto the ball for far too long. It allowed a Packers pass rush that has been nonexistent to get home far more often than they have recently.

The Packers won for the first time since Rodgers’ injury, and at 5-4 they avoided falling under .500 for the first time this season. A few more of these and there might be reason for Rodgers to return late in the season; he’s eligible to come off injured reserve no sooner than the Week 15 game at Carolina. With a scuffling team coming to Lambeau Field next Sunday, perhaps there’s a winning streak in the Packers’ future.

Still, it’s worth wondering whether Sunday’s result was simply a function of their opponent. However, the fact that Adams, Montgomery and then Jamaal Williams were able to run the ball against a Bears defense that ranked eighth overall and 13th against the run should give coach Mike McCarthy a baseline for how his team can win sans Rodgers.

“The ability to run the football at the most critical times of the game I thought was a tribute to our running backs,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I thought Jamaal had a heck of a day and I thought Brett Hundley played his best game of the year. Just handling the different situations, particularly the high pressure there in the fourth quarter. We got a big play from Davante when we needed it.”

Montgomery’s 37-yard touchdown was his fourth career rush of at least 30 yards, all of which have come against the Bears. He had 54 yards on six carries before he reinjured his ribs. Before that, Jones had carried three times for 12 yards. That left Williams as the only remaining halfback active for the game, and he helped grind things out with 67 yards on 20 carries.

“I guess he was third string but it speaks a lot to him and his preparation,” left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “He was able to come in and knew what to do. Mentally he was ready and physically he was ready. That’s something that you want to see. Moving forward, we’ll see what’s up with our backs. Terrible to see two of them go down. He’s got the film that he can lower his pad level and get after some defensive players, so that’s going to be nice.”

In all, the Packers ran it a season-high 37 times (nine more attempts than their previous season high) for 160 yards.

“I feel like that’s my type of running style is downhill. I feel like I can be versatile, too — agile and do all the other things I need to do to get outside the tackles and try to take it for a touchdown,” Williams said. “These type of games, you’ve got to pound it, get those first downs and really just have that pride with your linemen that you can get the first downs, no matter what.”

Or maybe the Packers will have to rely on their defense, which rediscovered its pass rush. Nick Perry had as many sacks (three) as the Packers had in their previous four games combined.

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The Green Bay Packers released defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois — again.It’s the second time this season they’ve let the ninth-year veteran go.

The first time came after he played just six snaps in the regular-season opener. They brought him back in Week 3.

On Wednesday, they released him again. Although they didn’t immediately replace him on the roster, they’re likely to fill his spot with rookie fourth-round outside linebacker Vince Biegel, who appears ready to come off the physically unable to perform list.

Biegel returned to practice on Oct. 18, the earliest possible date he could have taken the field after starting the season on PUP. It was the first time he was on the field since Packers rookie camp in May, when a recurring foot problem forced him to undergo a second surgery in less than year. Biegel first had surgery in the fall of 2016 during his senior season at Wisconsin.

The Packers hope Biegel can boost their pass rush, which has only seven sacks from their outside linebacker group (3.5 from Nick Perry, 2.5 from Clay Matthews and 1 from Ahmad Brooks).

Biegel would have to be activated or placed on injured reserve by the end of this week, when his three-week window to practice without counting against the roster ends.

“It’s like any player coming off whether it’s IR or PUP, there’s thresholds you have to jump over,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said this week. “I thought he did a nice job practicing going into the New Orleans game. He’s going to have an opportunity to compete, and then we’ll make the decision whether to bring him up to the 53, and then from that you make the decision on the 46.”

Francois signed a one-year, $2 million contract that included a $250,000 signing bonus during free agency this past offseason. When the Packers re-signed him, they gave him nearly the exact same contract minus the signing bonus. As a vested veteran, he’s eligible to claim the rest of his $1.25 million base salary as termination pay. Players are allowed to do that just once in their careers.

In all, Francois appeared in six games for the Packers and made just two tackles.

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One look around the NFL during the Green Bay Packers’ bye showed just how much they miss the group of top-line players they lost in free agency last spring.

News of Martellus Bennett’s tentative plans to retire after this season make what happened with Jared Cook look even more perplexing.

Meanwhile, linebacker Julius Peppers recorded sack No. 7.5 this season — equaling his total from all of last season with the Packers — for the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, and safety Micah Hyde picked off his league-leading fifth pass for the Buffalo Bills.

Two of their former offensive linemen who left in free agency also lined up as starters for their new teams: T.J. Lang with the Detroit Lions and JC Tretter with the Cleveland Browns.

It’s hard to say which of those five free-agent losses the Packers miss most. Every one of those areas has proved problematic in Green Bay through the first seven games.

The Packers thought they had more than made up for Cook when they signed both Bennett and Lance Kendricks after negotiations surprisingly broke down with Cook. Cook and his agent either overplayed their hand or the Packers wouldn’t budge on their offer. Either way, the Packers turned elsewhere before Cook had anything in the works with the Oakland Raiders, who eventually signed him to a two-year, $10.6 million deal.

Cook, with 31 catches for 373 yards and one touchdown, has been more productive than Bennett (24 catches, 233 yards and no touchdowns) and also doesn’t plan on retiring after this season.

Then there’s Peppers, who has more sacks this season than Nick Perry (3.5 sacks) and Clay Matthews (2.5) combined. The Packers’ struggling defense, which entered Week 8 ranked 22nd overall, could have certainly used another pass-rusher. Peppers went back to Carolina for a one-year, $3.5 million deal, while the Packers re-signed Perry to a five-year, $60 million deal.

The Packers didn’t even make Hyde an offer before he signed a five-year, $30.5 million contract with the Bills. Meanwhile, the Packers’ secondary has been a mess with injuries at both cornerback and safety. Hyde’s five interceptions nearly equal the Packers’ entire team total of six this season.

On the offensive line, the Packers have started a different combination in each of their seven games this season. Meanwhile, Tretter has started every game for the Browns, while Lang has started all but one game for the Lions.

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The same unit that held back the Green Bay Packers when it mattered most last season remains so problematic that even Aaron Rodgers’ presence may not have been enough to get them back to the brink of the Super Bowl this season.

Without Rodgers to cover up for the missteps on defense, coordinator Dom Capers’ unit was exposed for what it is: a subpar unit that may have fixed some of the problems that ended their season in the NFC title game last year but ultimately has too many other issues.

From a pure rankings standpoint, the Packers are once again below average at best on that side of the ball. They finished 22nd in total defense last season and rank in the same spot after seven games this year. They stand better against the pass (16th this year compared with 31st last season) and worse against the run (27th now, eighth last season).

Things looked even worse in last Sunday’s 26-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field. Two early takeaways — interceptions by a resurgent Damarious Randall and Davon House — only delayed the inevitable collapse against quarterback Drew Brees, who hardly ever tested the Packers deep. Instead, a variety of screens and short passes confounded the 11 on defense — when they bothered to field 11, that is. They had only 10 defenders on the field for Mark Ingram’s 12-yard touchdown run on a third-and-2 play in the second quarter.

“That was kind of a gift touchdown off having 10 people on the field,” Capers said.

This defense isn’t good enough to give anything away.

“We’ve got to be better there,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We talked about the communication; it was clearly not good enough. We’ve got to be way better than we were. We knew they were going to roll the personnel group in; they rolled in nine personnel groups [during the game]. They stretched you at the end of the 40-second clock. We weren’t even close to where we needed to be.”

The same could be said for the collective performance through seven games. Sure, injuries have ravaged the secondary, but at least on Sunday against the Saints they had all of their preferred players except for starting strong safety Morgan Burnett.

The issues that have plagued the defense have been many, missed tackles and the lack of a pass rush chief among them. The Packers rank 27th in sack percentage overall but 32nd (last) in the past three games, when they have recorded just two sacks (both by Nick Perry).

When the pass rush should be most effective on obvious third-down pass plays, it hasn’t been. Brees got the ball out quickly on a hitch to Ted Ginn, who converted a third-and-17. Earlier, tight end Coby Fleener was wide open for a 17-yard gain on third-and-3. On a third-and-9 play in the third quarter, Mike Daniels got to Brees a second too late to prevent a throw downfield to Michael Thomas for a 21-yard gain. On that play, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, a Pro Bowler with five interceptions last year, sat back behind Thomas and did not make a play on the ball.

Although Clinton-Dix insisted he isn’t hurt, his play this season would suggest otherwise. He hasn’t been around the ball as much as he was last season, and when he has been he hasn’t made many plays. Without Burnett, who has missed the past two games because of a hamstring injury, Capers has relied more on Clinton-Dix to get players lined up.

“He’s had a lot more on his plate, so who knows how much that affects people,” Capers said of Clinton-Dix. “When you get used to playing, he’s been playing with Morgan out there. Morgan takes on a different role and Ha can focus in on certain things, and now Ha’s had to pick up that role and it gives him a lot more responsibility.”

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers hope that by the time they leave for Dallas on Saturday afternoon, receiver Davante Adams will be cleared to play Sunday against the Cowboys.

Running back Ty Montgomery might not be so lucky.

Adams has progressed through the stages of the concussion protocol since taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from Chicago Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan — but as of Friday afternoon, Adams still had not seen the independent neurologist who needs to clear him. Because of that, he is listed as questionable.

“Really, when you deal with the doctors and availability and scheduling, with it being an away game, I would say tomorrow by the time we get on the plane would be a fair deadline,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Friday.

It’s possible the Packers could update Adams’ status on Saturday.

Adams practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday. Because he has not been cleared, he’s barred from talking to reporters.

Montgomery looks less likely to play after he did not take part in any of the 11-on-11 drills during Thursday’s full-pads practice. Montgomery sustained multiple broken ribs in last week’s game against the Bears. He was on the field Wednesday, wearing a protective vest under his jersey. He is listed as doubtful.

“Ty Montgomery worked in the indoor portion of practice and didn’t participate in the team periods,” McCarthy said.

Montgomery declined to speak to reporters on Friday.

If Montgomery can’t go, Green Bay will field an all-rookie running back group. Fourth-round pick Jamaal Williams, who injured his knee after Montgomery got hurt against the Bears, is good to go, and fifth-rounder Aaron Jones (who carried 13 times for 49 yards and a touchdown against Chicago) could see significant snaps.

The Packers could welcome back their two starting tackles, David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga, who this season have not played a single snap at the same time. Bakhtiari has not played since he sustained a hamstring injury in the opener, and Bulaga has played only in the Week 3 game against Cincinnati, when he reinjured the right ankle he sprained in training camp. Both players are listed as questionable.

On the defensive side, the Packers appear likely to get back Mike Daniels, who had a dominant performance in Week 1 and then dropped out on the first series of the following game at Atlanta because of a hip injury, and cornerback Davon House, who also hasn’t played since he sustained a quadriceps injury against the Falcons. Both are listed as questionable, but Daniels insisted he would play and House practiced in full this week.

“It feels good,” Daniels said. “I felt good at practice running around, felt strong. So I’m just ready to roll. It’s been hard watching, you know what I’m saying?”

Outside linebacker Nick Perry will have to wear a club cast on his right hand for the second straight week. He confirmed Friday that it’s his broken pinkie finger that required surgery to have a screw inserted.

Last year, Perry broke multiple fingers on his left hand and finished the season wearing a similar cast.

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Here’s how bad the Packers’ offensive line situation looks on the eve of Thursday’s game against the Chicago Bears: They might have to start someone who’s been with them for three days or play one or more of their guards at the all-important tackle spots.

Preferred starting tackles David Bakhtiari (hamstring) and Bryan Bulaga (ankle) both were listed as doubtful on the final injury report Wednesday. The Packers’ top three backup tackles all are on injured reserve. Kyle Murphy, who started the season opener at right tackle in place of Bulaga and the last two games at left tackle for Bakhtiari, this week joined Jason Spriggs and Don Barclay on IR.

Coach Mike McCarthy will have to decide whether to try tackle Ulrick John, who was signed Tuesday after Murphy sustained a foot injury, or shuffle two of his guards — either starters Lane Taylor and Jahri Evans or backups Lucas Patrick, Justin McCray or Adam Pankey — to the outside.

Taylor might be the best option at left tackle because at least he plays on the left side of the line as the starting left guard. Patrick could then jump in at Taylor’s spot.

McCray then likely would be the best option at right tackle. He played exclusively at guard and center all preseason but made his first NFL start in Week 2 against Atlanta at right tackle. He also filled in Sunday after Bulaga reinjured his right ankle. Patrick is a guard/center by trade, while Pankey played tackle in college at West Virginia but transitioned to guard this summer after he was signed as an undrafted free agent.

“It’s definitely not a position you want to be in,” Bakhtiari said. “Technically, you have your five tackles all banged up right now. That’s not something you want to see. We’re a team at the end of the day. We believe in the philosophy of next man up. Regardless if a guy’s out there and he’s banged up, he’s got to perform.”

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers took a beating last week, getting sacked six times by the Bengals. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it’s the first time he’s ever won a game while getting sacked six or more times.

At least Rodgers should have all of his receivers if he has any time to throw. Randall Cobb (chest) was removed from the injury report after missing the game Sunday.

The Packers ruled out cornerback Davon House (quad) for the second straight week. Two other defensive players, Mike Daniels (hip) and Nick Perry (hand), were listed as questionable.

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Take that, Tom Brady.

Aaron Rodgers did Sunday what the New England Patriots quarterback did three hours earlier.

It’s what MVP quarterbacks do.

And Rodgers might have even one-upped Brady.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback engineered a game-tying drive and a game-winning one, and it was vintage free-play Rodgers.

First, he threaded the needle like only he seems to do on a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson that barely skimmed by the fingers of Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick with 17 seconds left in regulation.

Then, in overtime, when the Bengals jumped offside on third down, Rodgers made them pay with a 72-yard pass to Geronimo Allison for a catch and run that set up Mason Crosby’s 27-yard game-winning field goal. When Crosby’s kick went through the uprights in the south end zone to win it 27-24, it was the only time the Packers led all game.

Remarkably, it was Rodgers’ first overtime win. He came in 0-4 in regular-season overtime games and 0-7 overall including the playoffs. Other than the 2009 wild-card playoff loss at Arizona, when Rodgers fumbled, most of those were hardly his fault. He had thrown only six overtime passes in those seven overtime games.

It also was the first time Rodgers won in a game in which he was sacked at least six times. He had been 0-6 in such games.

A loss would have put the Packers at 1-2 for the fourth time in Rodgers’ career as a starter. That would’ve left a gloomy outlook considering how beat up the Packers are and their short week ahead — their next game is Thursday night against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.

Rodgers’ heroics made his first pick-six in more than seven years a footnote to this game and not what defined it.

Now, perhaps defensive tackle Mike Daniels, outside linebacker Nick Perry, cornerback Davon House and inside linebacker Jake Ryan will be back on Thursday. And perhaps left tackle David Bakhtiari and receiver Randall Cobb will return.

Either way, the Packers avoided a potential early-season crisis thanks to Rodgers.