Packers vs. Saints: Quick Takes from Green Bay's 44-23 Loss

Quick takes from the Packers' 44-23 loss to the Saints in Week 8. 

The Green Bay Packers (5-3) fell victim to the wizardry of the Superdome, as a third-quarter hamstring injury to quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a collapse of Dom Capers' defense allowed the New Orleans Saints (3-4) to score 21 straight points and 28 of the final 35 in a 44-23 loss Sunday night in New Orleans. 

 

It was over when…

… Drew Brees threw his third touchdown pass of the second half, connecting with tight end Josh Hill for a two-yard score off playaction. However, it was Rodgers' injury that started a span of three empty offensive possessions, while a defense ill-equipped to get into a shootout allowed three-straight Saints touchdowns and 495 overall yards. Many factors ended this game. 

 

Game Balls

  • Eddie Lacy: The Packers' bowling-ball back rushed for just 59 yards, but he caught a career high eight passes for 126 yards. He led the Packers in receptions and targets. Green Bay's dormant screen game came to life, and Lacy was effective late in the game as an underneath receiver. He's a natural catching the football, which highlights how complete a running back he really is. Lacy is also still a load to bring down, even with two or three tacklers. He might have broke 10-plus tackles Sunday night. 
  • Letroy Guion: His assisted stop of Mark Ingram on fourth down to start the second half was a lone bright spot. The Packers gave up 172 rushing yards to Ingram and allowed Brees to complete 27-of-32 passes for 311 yards, three touchdowns (138.4 passer rating). The defense blew a big opportunity to shed its reputation against elite quarterbacks Sunday night.  
  • Mason Crosby: Crosby made all three of his attempts (long of 49) to improve his season total to 11-of-12. He also gave the Packers a chance to recover both onside kick attempts, although neither was perfect and neither was actually recovered. 

 

Stat of the Game: 138.4

Or Brees' passer rating Sunday night. He's no joke in primetime at the Superdome, as all the stats will confirm. The Packers are just one of many defenses to face his fury and end up looking silly. But at some point, the Packers will need to play well against a top quarterback to get back to the Super Bowl. Sunday night was certainly not a confidence booster in that area. Brees put on a clinic, completing all 11 of his passes with three scores in the second half. 

 

Other Notes

-- The Packers at least continued their fast starts on offense. Rodgers had all day on the first drive to find Randall Cobb, who made the catch behind the defense for a 70-yard touchdown. Rodgers on the first drive over the last three weeks: 9/10, 210 yards and three touchdowns. 

-- Rodgers' injury seemed to deflate the offense, but that's no excuse for the defense's inability to tackle Mark Ingram or cover anyone of importance. The missed tackle numbers at Pro Football Focus Monday morning will likely resemble Week 1, when the Packers missed 18. Meanwhile, Brandin Cooks, a rookie receiver, went off for 98 total yards and two scores, and the Packers allowed beat-up Jimmy Graham to get hot in the second half. Of course, Capers' unit was without three preferred starters (Datone Jones, Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett) in the most unwelcoming of environments. This was still a clear step backwards for the defense. 

-- When is the last time the Packers beat a really good football team? It's a difficult question to answer. Maybe at Houston in 2012? Go scour the game logs. I'd peg the Packers at 1-3 against "good" teams this season, with the lone win coming down in Miami. And yes, the Saints—regardless of a 2-4 record coming in—qualify as a really good football team in the Superdome. There's a reason no one beats New Orleans in New Orleans. Again, getting to a Super Bowl will require beating a really good team. It's been a while since the Packers could confidently say they've accomplished such a feat. Another opportunity was lost Sunday night. 

-- Absolutely no problem with the surprise onside kick. In a game everyone assumed would be a track meet, Mike McCarthy tried to steal a possession. The Packers got the right look and nearly pulled it off. McCarthy talked this week about "shooting all your bullets," and the onside kick is part of his ammo. I think it would have gone over better had he not called for a end-zone slant to a defensive end a few plays earlier. 

-- The hamstring injury was a turning point, no question. McCarthy admitted after the game that the Packers essentially threw out a good chunk of the playbook after Rodgers tweaked his hamstring with 9:12 left in the third quarter. Rodgers had a 133.1 passer rating before the injury, and a 45.8 rating after, although the two picks were the result of a good defensive play (first) and a quarterback-receiver miscommunication (second). That said, Rodgers struggled to get out from center (had to go shotgun), had his mobility significantly limited and was reluctant to put weight on his left leg when throwing. It mattered. What also mattered was the Packers defense allowing empty possessions on offense to completely change the game, as the Saints ruptured big play after big play in the second half. So yes, the injury mattered; and yes, the defense collapsed. Add it up, and the Packers lose by three scores on the road. 

-- The Packers head into the bye at 5-3, with all three losses coming away from home. The final eight games include five at Lambeau Field, plus road games at Minnesota and Tampa Bay. The week off comes at a perfect time, as several big names, including Rodgers, Shields, Burnett, Jones and T.J. Lang, need to get healthy. Beating the sinking Chicago Bears in primetime at Lambeau on Nov. 9 would rid the Packers of this sour cajun taste. 

 

Zach Kruse contributes to Cheesehead TV. He is also the Lead Writer for the NFC North at Bleacher Report. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at [email protected]. 

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Comments (14)

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KenEllis's picture

October 27, 2014 at 06:36 am

I agree Zach that "at some point, the Packers will need to play well against a top quarterback to get back to the Super Bow.l"

My only question is whether Aaron Rodgers will be the Pack's starting QB when the D finally plays well against a top QB because it has been 3 and 1/2 season of consistently poor defense and nothing seems to be changing.

Same system, same defensive coordinator, same beat downs in big games over and over again. It got old a long time ago.

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The TKstinator's picture

October 27, 2014 at 06:55 am

It was a bad game last night. Lots of stuff went wrong,
BUT,
for once, can we avoid overreacting to a loss? Calling for firings? Making painfully obvious observations and passing them off as things that TT and MM are "too stupid" to realize?

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HankScorpio's picture

October 27, 2014 at 09:45 am

It's a nice thought to avoid over-reaction. But this is the age of the internet. Over-reaction is the way of the world.

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DraftHobbyist's picture

October 27, 2014 at 10:35 am

I don't consider asking Dom Capers to be fired an overreaction. I've been calling for his head for 3 years. MM and TT seem to disagree, but unfortunately they are wrong. Capers has proven year after year that he just isn't cutting it. Everybody made excuses for him about talent, but we've now injected defensive talent year after year and nothing has changed. Heck, the coaches can't even identify the best players to play. It's time for Capers to go.

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HankScorpio's picture

October 27, 2014 at 07:02 am

Every football season is full of ups and downs. Last night was a big downer. I won't go so far as to say it was easy to see coming but in hindsight, you had to figure the Packers would not be able to play at such a high level indefinitely.

About all that went right was red zone defense in the first half. The Packers held the Saints to FGs early, which might have allowed the game to go differently had the offense been converting in their own red zone opportunities.

The second half was a total disaster. From the two picks on offense to the way the defense completely rolled over. Burn the tape and move on.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

October 27, 2014 at 07:52 am

"About all that went right was red zone defense in the first half. The Packers held the Saints to FGs early, which might have allowed the game to go differently had the offense been converting in their own red zone opportunities."

Exactly. It sucked not being able to convert in the Red Zone. I was fine with that Peppers play (that's his fault,btw). I just don't understand always going Shotgun in the Red Zone. Somebody....anybody...make me understand the Pros to that. PA with Rodgers under center works so much more easier (look at Vikings and Dolphins game).

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DrealynWilliams's picture

October 27, 2014 at 07:42 am

I totally expected what we seen in the 1st half. Now, that 2nd half blindsided me. What the hell changed!??

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pacman's picture

October 27, 2014 at 07:51 am

It's Hanz & Franz's fault! All that muscle toning tightened up AR's hamstring that a simple run tweeked it. I'm pretty sure it was the tank-pull. Get AR a good masseuse.

Seriously though, it's been the defense line that's been the real problem for the last 2-3 years. As much as it is a passing league, the bend-but-don't-break line is not going to get us into the SB.

That being said, we have some major injuries.

Lastly, why can this OL protect AR so well but not open any holes up the gut?

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DrealynWilliams's picture

October 27, 2014 at 07:57 am

I think it was more poor (attempted) tackling than bad D-Line play.

That's a good question regarding the up the gut blocking. I don't know. It's frustrating though. The coaches should know what they do best and stick to it. I say our best run formation is the Full House. Let's use that a bit more. I understand keeping the defense off balance, but let's keep Lacy's runs out of Shotgun to a minimum.

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mrtundra's picture

October 27, 2014 at 09:31 am

My buddy and I were wondering the same thing regarding the O Line not being able to create holes for our RBs. Their blocking for Rodgers has been pretty good, but they cannot open a hole for Lacy or Starks.

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Bearmeat's picture

October 27, 2014 at 10:00 am

Look: We had 2 very unlucky INTs, 2 or 3 VERY bad PI calls, a failed 4th and short on our own 40 and a bad/unnecessary onside kick. I'm not saying those things weren't GBs fault, but it's not likely that all those breaks are going to go the opposition's way every time. If we play these guys in Lambeau in the playoffs, the outcome will be different.

We'll still win the division. We might even get a bye.

That said, the breakdowns on run D are VERY concerning. Unlike the things above, that IS repeatable. And I'm starting to think that is going to be the reason this edition of the Green Bay Packers will get bounced by a good running team (SEA/SF/DAL) in the playoffs.

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FITZCORE1252's picture

October 27, 2014 at 11:51 am

When this team gets to 9 wins, will you honor your word (for once) and leave? Will you be a man? It's never too late to start.

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FITZCORE1252's picture

October 27, 2014 at 08:54 pm

Answer the question.

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Tundraboy's picture

October 27, 2014 at 01:41 pm

Quick takes.

Tough loss to take, and not so hard to take, 2 turnovers and Rodgers injury, and non existeant tackling. Lucky it was not worse.

About fucking time they used the screen!!!!! Lacy is a monster with any head of steam. Nice to see MM see that. Same for Cobb.

D - ????? Oh well back to the old drawing board.

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