Rapid Reaction: Packers 42, Saints 34


GREEN BAY, Wis. – A few thoughts on the New Orleans Saints' season-opening 42-34 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

What it means: It’s only one game, but this one was particularly painful for the Saints and could have implications that linger through the season. The defense was nothing short of horrible most of the night and that’s a huge cause for concern. Yes, they were playing the defending Super Bowl champions on the road, but the Saints have to be better than this on defense if they hope to be more than an average team.

Missing Will Smith: With the defensive end suspended for the first two games of the season, the Saints generated virtually no pass rush. Rookie Cameron Jordan, Jeff Charleston, Junior Galette and Turk McBride weren’t expected to do it on their own. The Saints did try plenty of blitzes, but didn’t have a lot of luck. Don't give the Saints too much sympathy on this one. They knew for months there was the chance Smith would serve a suspension, but didn't do much to counter that.

Secondary issues: Second-year pro Patrick Robinson had a tough game as he took over the nickelback role. Strong safety Roman Harper had a rough night and cornerback Tracy Porter didn’t tackle well. If you’re not getting any pressure and your secondary is struggling, you’ve got problems.

The bright spot: Running back/return man Darren Sproles was explosive as he made his New Orleans debut. He returned a punt for a touchdown and also looked good on kickoff returns and as a receiver out of the backfield. Sproles looks like an upgrade from Reggie Bush.

Whatever happened to Jimmy Graham? The second-year tight end was expected to be a focal point of the offense. He barely was a factor. But give Green Bay’s defense much of the credit for that. The Saints seemed like they were looking for Graham, but he rarely was open, except for a fourth-quarter touchdown that came too late.

What’s next: The Saints get another strong NFC North opponent Sept. 18. They’ll play the Chicago Bears, but that game will be in the Superdome.