For the second straight season, the Packers defeated the Saints at Lambeau Field. Green Bay notched its second win of the season with a 28-27 victory over New Orleans.
Getting Up To Speed
Perhaps it was the sub-par Saints defense or maybe it was revenge from last week’s debacle in Seattle, but one way or another, the Packers offense finally found its groove on Sunday. Commanding the no-huddle offense with precision, quarterback Aaron Rodgers overcame injury and drops from his receivers to put together an excellent day, finishing with 319 yards on 31 completions, four touchdowns and an interception.
Rodgers’ performance was supported by a healthy rushing attack. Veteran Cedric Benson hit holes harder and turned corners faster than any Packers running back since Ahman Green roamed the backfield. Benson finished the day with only 84 yards on 18 carries but his two runs prior to the two-minute warning helped set up a spectacular James Jones catch on third-and-three to ensure the victory.
In the NFL momentum changes faster than Clay Matthews chases down a quarterback. And a single play late in the third quarter altered the course of the game for the Packers.
Aaron Rodgers had just left the game after getting whacked in the eye by Saints defensive back Malcolm Jenkins. Following a facemask penalty on Jenkins, Packers backup Graham Harrell was pressed into his first NFL action. On his first snap, Harrell’s feet got tangled with lineman Jeff Saturday’s and Harrell fumbled the attempted handoff to Cedric Benson.
The Saints’ Malcolm Jenkins came away with the football and the Saints cashed in the turnover with an 80-yard touchdown strike to mark New Orleans’ first lead of the game.
Different Refs, Same Bad Calls
The Packers first defensive drive of the day ended much like the final drive of their last game. Although last week’s no-call of pass interference was much more blatant than this week’s, Saints receiver Marques Colston clearly pushed Packers safety Morgan Burnett to the ground before coming down with a Drew Brees touchdown pass. Regardless of who was wearing the black-and-white stripes, both touchdown calls overlooked blatant pass interference, but luckily for the Packers, the game didn’t end on a disastrous call this week.
The second half welcomed more poor officiating from head referee Jeff Triplette and his crew. The Packers defense would have forced a three-and-out to open the third quarter, but instead Triplette failed to overturn a Mike McCarthy-challenged catch after Saints tight end Jimmy Graham dropped the ball. Instead, the drive continued and culminated in only a field goal thanks to a goal line stand from the Packers defense.
Another key missed call came midway through the fourth quarter, when the referees ruled kick-returner Darren Sproles down-by-contact after Dezman Moses forced and recovered a Sproles fumble. Since McCarthy had already used both of his alloted challenges, the Packers had no means of rectifying the officials’ error and found themselves on the wrong side of yet another bad call.
Always the class act, McCarthy bit his tongue and used his post-game press conference to praise the pace of the game the officials maintained, which helped his offense find its rhythm. Who ever said nice guys finish last?
Safety M.D. Jennings’ rough week continued as he exited early with a shoulder injury. Defensive lineman Ryan Pickett also injured his shoulder but returned late in the game wearing a brace. Charles Woodson briefly left the game with an apparent shoulder injury but was able to return.
On the offensive side of the ball, wideout Greg Jennings re-injured his groin and was unable to return. Even without Jennings, however, Rodgers and the offense sustained its lofty trajectory and sealed the victory with a fourth-quarter rally.
A weaker team may have folded under the circumstances of the infamous Fail Mary and a series of poor calls from the referees this week, but credit Mike McCarthy’s team for fighting through and finding a way to come out victorious. Green Bay’s strength will once again be tested, however, as the Packers embark on a three-week road trip beginning in Indianapolis against Andrew Luck and the Colts.