Packers short-circuit themselves in New Orleans
By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior editor
~The Packers turned a back-and-forth shootout into a rout in the third quarter, just as they did their last trip to New Orleans, as the New Orleans Saints turned a 16-16 halftime tie into a 37-16 lead just four minutes into the fourth quarter.
The Packers were blitzed for 21 straight points, and, just like the last visit, suddenly it was a blowout loss instead of a great game and a chance for a big primetime road win. But the game should have been a different story already by halftime as the Packers’ offense self-destructed in the first half, preventing what should have been a decent lead at the half.
In the end, the final score was 44-23, and the Packers head into the bye at 5-3, a game behind the first place Detroit Lions, who last week beat these Saints, and this week beat the Atlanta Falcons in London. Both Lions wins came without superstar Calvin Johnson, and both were essentially miracle wins as bot games seemed like certain losses until the last couple of minutes.
Where it went wrong
It went wrong on defense right away. The Packers got the ball first, and scored on a third and long play, a 70-yard bomb to Randall Cobb. Then the Packers defense responded, as the Saints defense did, and they let the Saints answer with an 80-yard drive of their own to make it 7-7, still on serve. But after that, the Packers defense kept the Saints out of the end zone the rest of the half on three more drives, for nine more points and 16 total.
Unfortunately, the Packers offense sputtered the same way, stalling and settling for three field goals.
On drive number two for the Packers, Eddie Lacy took a screen pass and rumbled and stumbled all the way down to the Saints 3-yard line on a 67-yard catch and run. It set up a first and goal at the 3-yard line, seemingly ready to hold serve and go back up by a touchdown.
But this is where coaching got in the way. Obviously a bit winded after the long catch and run, where he broke numerous tackles and carried guys with him, the Packers chose to hand it off to Lacy on first down. With no blocking, Lacy was swarmed and stuffed for no gain. Even if he wasn’t tired, there was no chance there as Lane Taylor was in the game.
Still, it was second and goal from the 3-yard line, and two chances for Rodgers to throw it, or scramble in, a touchdown seemed certain.
Someone decided that the Packers regular receivers weren’t good enough, so they put in Julius Peppers split wide left, and ran a slant in to him. Rodgers pass was right between the numbers, and Peppers dropped it. No touchdown, and third down coming up. At least the drop/deflection didn’t turn into a gift interception for the Saints.
Now it was 3rd and goal. The Packers called timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Rodgers was late getting the play ready at the line of scrimmage, was forced to rush the snap, combined with poor blocking, he was sacked for a loss of 11 yards, and now the 1st and goal from the 3 turned into just 3 points, and the lead was 10-7.
Coach McCarthy got cute, showing what little faith he had in his defense, by trying a sneak onside kick. Not a bad idea, not as bad as using Peppers as a receiver (and not throwing it up high to take advantage of his 8-inch height advantage), but it didn’t work, and the Saints started their second drive in Packers territory at the 46-yard line.
Ten plays later, on third and 9, Julius Peppers atoned for his dropped interception (which cost 4 points), by sacking Drew Brees and saving 4 points as the Saints had to settle for a field goal, making it 10-10.
Packers drive number 3 was marching along fine again, at the Saints 24-yard line and a first down. That’s when left tackle David Bakhtiari got called for another holding call on a Rodgers scramble, and the 10-yard penalty pushed the ball back to the 34-yard line and set up a 1st and 20. Since the start of last season, Bakhtiari leads the NFL in holding penalties.
Rodgers would miss two passes sandwiched around a James Starks 2-yard run, and another field goal made it 13-10 Packers. To this point, the Saints defense really didn’t do anything to stop the Packers offense, and without the Packers own miscues down in scoring territory, it very easily could have been 21-10 Packers.
But it wasn’t. It was only 13-10, and the Saints would get the ball next, march for over 7 minutes and 15 plays, but the defense stiffened at the 10-yard line and forced another field goal, making it 13-13.
The Packers, again, marched right down the field, and had a 2nd and 1 at the Saints 18-yard line. An 11-yard pass to Davante Adams was wiped out by the zebra who called Adams for the push-off (later in the game, Jimmy Graham caught a touchdown when he got away with a little pushoff on Tramon Williams).
This set up a 1st and 20, and then Rodgers again took too long to get the play ready and a delay of game now made it a 1st and 25, which led to another field goal and a 16-13 lead.
The Saints would get the ball back with 1:51 back, at their own 20-yard line, and the Packers defense was fortunate that time ran out, leading the Saints to once again kick a field goal as time expired, making it 16-16 at the half.
The second half started well as the Packers’ defense actually got a stop. The Saints, at the Packers 42, had a 3rd and 1. They lost a yard to make it 4th and 1, and went for it. Mark Ingram was stuffed, and the Packers got a break of serve and the offense took over with a tie game, at their 43 yard line, very good field position for once as all other drives for both teams had begun at the 20.
Again, Rodgers led the offense down into the red zone, and he picked up a first down on a 7-yard scramble to the Saints 6 yard line, stepping out of bounds untouched along the right sideline. But he pulled something in his hamstring, which seemingly affected him the rest of the game.
Still, it was 1st and goal at the Saints 6-yard line. Hopefully, this time, they’d punch it in and go back up by 7 instead of wilting and settling for another field goal. First down, and Eddie Lacy was stuffed for one yard, despite running hard, as the blocking was poor. Second down saw a misfire to Jordy Nelson in the end zone.
Third and goal from the 5-yard line, and the Packers ran the same play they ran in the 1st quarter to Peppers. Again, Rodgers put the ball right to the receiver, this time tight end Andrew Quarless. He failed to snatch it in, but worse, it bounced up into the air, right into the waiting arms of Saints linebacker David Hawthorne.
That was the Packers last chance to take the lead, as the defense allowed the Saints to score touchdowns their next 3 possessions and blow it open 37-16, before the Packers scored finally with 5:13 left to make it 37-23. The Packers failed to recover an onside kick, and a few plays later, Ingram ran in a 21-yard touchdown to make the final score 44-23.
Rodgers threw 2 interceptions on the night, both deflected passes. The second one on the night was a pass off rookie Davante Adams’ hand. Adams stopped his route, when he should have kept running to the inside, so the pass was ahead of him and he reached and tipped the ball into the air for another gift interception.
They were Rodgers’ first interceptions since week one, in Seattle, when Jordy Nelson tipped one into the air for a gift interception for the Seahawks.
The Packers now have their bye, then welcome the reeling Chicago Bears (3-5) to Lambeau Field. That game will also be on NBC Football Night in America, primetime. All 3 of Rodgers interceptions this year are on the NBC night games.
Player of the Game
- Eddie Lacy, edges Randall Cobb
Despite crappy blocking, Lacy was a horse last night. He only ran the ball 13 times, for 59 yards (4.5 average), but there were never any real holes, as all his yardage came from breaking tackles and/or cutting against the grain. But Lacy also caught 8 passes, tops on the team, for 123 yards.
Cobb had the big 70-yard touchdown catch on the opening drive. He ended up with 5 catches for 126 yards.
Goat of the Game
- Lane Taylor
Granted, he’s not a starter. But still, he’s on the roster, he’s getting paid, and he’s being counted on as the first sub if a guard goes down. That’s what happened to TJ Lang, somehow (no video of the play was made available and NBC didn’t say how it occurred).
Taylor was victimized left and right on running plays, including the key 4th and 1 that Lacy was stuffed on. He was the lowest-rated Packers player on offense in the game, according to Pro Football Focus, with a -4.2 grade.
Starting right tackle, Bryan Bulaga, again struggled on turf against a fast edge rusher. Bulaga allowed 6 hurries, and had a -3.4 pass block grade.
Consolation votes go to:
- Andrew Quarless
- Davante Adams
- Julius Peppers
- And whoever thought Peppers was a better option for catching a slant-in than either Jarrett Boykin, Jeff Janis, Adams, Cobb, or Jordy Nelson. Or Brandon Bostick, Richard Rodgers.
- I understand how great of an athlete Peppers is. He is special. I also understand that he’s 6 foot 6, so he has about an 8-inch height advantage over the little cornerback who was one-on-one against him. So why not throw the high ball to him, let Peppers arms and rebounding ability be the mismatch that Jimmy Graham’s is? A slant-in? He couldn’t handle that.He might have height that Cobb and Boykin don’t, but his hands and pass-catching ability cannot be as good. As seen on TV now. That was costly.
After the bye, the Packers host the Bears, and the Lions host Miami.
The Vikings beat Tampa Bay in overtime, and are now tied with Chicago at 3-5. They get a home game this week against the Redskins, and have their bye next week.