Thursday, September 8, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Packers 42, Saints 34
By Kevin Seifert
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A few immediate thoughts after the Green Bay Packers’ 42-34 victory in Thursday night’s kickoff game against the New Orleans Saints:
What it means: The Packers scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions and held on during some tense moments late in the third and fourth quarters, becoming the 12th consecutive home team to win the NFL’s annual prime-time season opener. It was also the Packers’ seventh consecutive victory, dating back to December 2010 and including the playoffs. Lockout or not, their offense opened the season in midseason form and demonstrated its full array of weaponry. Five different players scored touchdowns. And along the way, the Packers announced the arrival of a new weapon: Rookie receiver/returner Randall Cobb.
CobbWatch: Cobb caught eyes early in training camp but was quiet thereafter while recovering from a bruised knee. But he exploded onto the scene Thursday night, taking a slant pass 32 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter and then returning a kickoff 108 yards for a score in the third quarter. His 31-yard punt return in the fourth quarter was nullified by penalty. I’ll have much more about Cobb after the game, including how his kickoff return -- which tied an NFL record for the longest-ever -- could impact the entire league’s reaction to this year’s kickoff rule change.
Turning point I: The Saints trailed 35-27 with 3 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter when coach Sean Payton decided to go for a fourth down at the Packers’ 7-yard line. I could see where Payton was coming from; the Packers defense was tired and the Saints had scored 20 of the game’s last 34 points. But the Packers sniffed out a play-action pass that appeared designed for tight end David Thomas. Brees had nowhere to throw. The Packers then drove 93 yards over 12 plays to take a two-touchdown lead on John Kuhn’s 1-yard touchdown run.
Turning point II: Receiver Donald Driver recovered an onside kick with 2:14 remaining to nearly end the Saints’ hopes. Driver also finished with 41 yards to pull into a tie for the most career receiving yards in team history.
Turning point III: The game ended in dramatic fashion after a last-minute drive put the Saints at the Packers' 1-yard line for the final play of the game. But linebacker Clay Matthews and safety Morgan Burnett stopped Saints rookie tailback Mark Ingram for no gain. Wow.
Injury report: Packers cornerback Tramon Williams injured his right shoulder after colliding with safety Nick Collins late in the fourth quarter. He walked gingerly off the field and was replaced by Sam Shields and Pat Lee in the nickel. We’ll update you with more information when we get it.
What’s next: The Packers will get a long weekend and then will play Sept. 18 at the Carolina Panthers.