Injuries, new players, uncertainty: Packers dealing with it all, and winning

“Epitome of a team win” for Green Bay’s constantly changing lineup

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Packers offensive linemen Royce Newman and Lucas Patrick block Bengals DT D.J. Reader.

It's a team game after all, and the Packers are using anyone and everyone who's available right now.

On Sunday in Cincinnati, the offensive line was down three starters.

The inside linebacker running the defense, and being its biggest impact player, was on the street until June 9.

On the Bengals' game-tying drive in the fourth quarter, one of the cornerbacks had arrived via trade in the middle of training camp, while an edge rusher showed up after Week 1 and was on the active game-day roster for the first time in his career.

A tight end making a tackle on kickoff coverage was acquired just 12 days ago.

The list is even longer than that, but whether you're talking about Yosh Nijman, Jon Runyan and Lucas Patrick up front on offense, or De'Vondre Campbell, Isaac Yiadom and La'Darius Hamilton on defense, or Tyler Davis on special teams, the Packers needed every ounce of depth they could muster with the injuries that have wracked the roster.

The insane 25-22 overtime triumph will be remembered for all the missed field goals back and forth, but its biggest meaning for the Packers was in how so many players had to get something done to help the cause.

"It's one of those team wins," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "That's a fun cliche for coaches to say – 'Oh it was a great team win' – but this was actually the epitome of a team win when you look at some of the guys that played big minutes for us."

It's important because the Packers, now 4-1 and still in first place by themselves in the NFC North, don't really know when they'll be healthy, or if they'll ever be whole again in 2021, frankly.

The offense is where the most optimism resides. Receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (hamstring) was working out at Paul Brown Stadium before the game and could come off injured reserve after next week.

They're expecting to get All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari back at some point, but whether it'll be later this month when he's first eligible or not remains up in the air. The ankle injury that has kept all-everything Elgton Jenkins out for three games now, and the finger issue that sidelined center Josh Myers on Sunday aren't expected to linger much longer.

"If you had told me it'd be Yosh, Runyan, Lucas Patrick, Royce (Newman) and Billy (Turner) as the starting five, I would've said, 'Oof, I hope that turns out,'" Rodgers said. "But, man those guys have played well, they really have."

On defense, though, second-team All-Pros Za'Darius Smith at outside linebacker and Jaire Alexander at cornerback are out indefinitely, and it's possible either or both could be done for the season.

There are reinforcements coming, with new acquisitions Rasul Douglas at corner and Jaylon Smith at linebacker both veteran players who could help soon. They were inactive Sunday after just arriving on Wednesday and Friday, respectively.

But the Packers also will have to make do with what they have, at least for a while.

The Green Bay Packers faced the Cincinnati Bengals in a Week 5 matchup on Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021.

The long TD pass at the end of the second quarter and the 13-play, 73-yard drive that took almost eight minutes off the fourth-quarter clock and tied the game were frustrating in different ways. But four three-and-outs in the first half, interceptions by safety Adrian Amos and Campbell, plus three sacks from a front that didn't blitz much were all strong signs that give reassurance.

"We didn't trail after we kicked a field goal at 9-7, which was really important I think mentally for us, and so I'm really proud of the way those guys battled," Rodgers said. "They deserve a lot of credit."

LaFleur added another piece of perspective in a reference specifically to the offensive line, but it could apply to the team as a whole five weeks into the season.

"I guess the one silver lining to this whole thing is you're developing some young guys in the process of this," he said. "You never know, this game, especially at the end of the year, what it can come down to. It's great for the development of a lot of those guys, but we're lucky to have great people that will battle and they put it all in each and every week."

Even if they haven't been around long to get familiar with their new team.

"You're hugging guys who you might not even know their first and last names sometimes," Rodgers said. "So it's fun to bring together a group like that."

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