NFL Nation: Packers-Saints
Just to close the book on Monday night's debacle at the Superdome, I wanted to share a couple of observations from ESPN Stats & Information. First, let's put New Orleans' passing success in perspective relative to Green Bay's previous defensive performance.
The Packers gave up nearly twice as many yards Monday night than their season average. Here's a full comparison:
More interestingly, video analyst Hank Gargiulo found that nearly 70 percent of the Saints' passing yardage came on yards after the catch. That meshes with the game plan quarterback Drew Brees revealed late Monday night: The Saints believed they could break tackles in the Packers' secondary if they managed to get their hands on the ball.
Overall, Gargiulo found that the Saints gained 226 of their 323 passing yards after the catch (YAC). Here is his YAC breakdown of the Saints' top receivers Monday night:
|Crystal LoGiudice/US Presswire|
|Drew Brees torched the Packers for 323 passing yards and four touchdown passes in a 51-29 drubbing of the Packers.|
NEW ORLEANS -- Atari Bigby sat at his locker with his head buried in his hands. Al Harris spoke as if in a daze. Nick Collins admitted he was "embarrassed" and questioned whether his team was ready to play.
"We got our [tail] whupped in front of the whole country," Woodson said. "When you see the backup quarterback come in, you know you got your [tail] whupped. It was a rough day."
The Packers' revered pass defense didn't just have a down day on "Monday Night Football." It was on the short end of perhaps the best passing day of the season, a near-perfect performance from Saints quarterback Drew Brees that made the Packers look like a bunch of bullfighters.
Olé, Bigby said as Saints receiver Lance Moore ran around him for a 70-yard scoring pass in the first quarter.
"We got embarrassed, we got whupped, however you want to put it," Collins said. "It was an old fashioned butt-whupping. We know we're better than that, and we can't ever let that happen again."
Collins wasn't sure why, but he nevertheless seemed convinced the Packers arrived in New Orleans unprepared for their task.
|Watch highlights from the Saints' 51-29 win over the Packers.|
"You can't explain it," he said. "We just weren't ready to play today. That's just all it was. We knew it was going to be a shootout. We just weren't ready. We just didn't have the fire tonight."
That's a disturbing admission from a prominent player on a team that needed a victory to keep pace in a mediocre division. Could the Packers have been overconfident, motivated by last week's now-distant thrashing of Chicago and the national attention on their pass defense? It's not like the Saints snuck up on anybody Monday night. Brees entered the game with more yards in his first 10 games than any quarterback in league history.
"We felt we could come in and have a better showing against this team," Woodson said. "But they turned out to be everything that everyone thought they were."
The Packers' defensive scheme relies on a certain level of physical superiority from the secondary -- the idea that Woodson and especially Harris can handle receivers in man coverage. Perhaps the Packers thought they could disrupt Brees' timing with his receivers, but the Saints clearly had them outmatched.
"They're a good secondary," Brees said. "They're a very good secondary. Arguably one of the better secondaries in this league, if not the best. [But] we felt like, with all the man-to-man matchups we would get, that if we could get the ball in the hands of our receivers, we could break a tackle and make some big plays."
Consider it mission accomplished for the Saints, whose own defense performed the way the Packers' defense hoped to. New Orleans intercepted Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers three times and knocked down 11 other passes, leaving the Packers unable to keep up.
The Packers' offense had entered the game ready for a shootout.
"We thought we could score on them," Rodgers said.
But no one counted on the defense giving up the fifth-most points in team history.
"Just no excuses," Harris said. "If our offense scores 29 points, we have to hold them to 28. We didn't hold up our end of the bargain."
Other notable items from the Packers' postgame locker room:
- Both Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy suitably noted the urgency Green Bay now faces. The Packers, of course, trail Chicago (6-5) and Minnesota (6-5) in the NFC North and will need help to make a move in the division over the final five games of the season. "We just need to win football games," McCarthy said. "It's November. It's time." Said Rodgers: "Every game for us is a must-win."
- The Packers played all but two plays without right tackle Mark Tauscher, who strained a hamstring and did not return. Tony Moll replaced him and Tauscher's status for Sunday's game against Carolina is uncertain. Tauscher blew out his knee at the Superdome in 2002 and missed 14 games.
- Rodgers used his previously injured right shoulder to knock Saints cornerback Jason David out of bounds after an interception in the third quarter. "I was pretty upset," Rodgers said. "And I gave it all I had."
- The Saints had 416 yards on only 54 plays, an average of 7.7 yards per play. "We expected more from our defense," McCarthy said.
- The Packers got away from their running game in the second half as the deficit grew. Tailback Ryan Grant had 64 yards in the first half and 3 yards in the second. The Saints "peeled back their ears" and rushed Rodgers with renewed v
igor, McCarthy said. It's no surprise that all three of Rodgers' interceptions and both of his sacks came after halftime.
NEW ORLEANS -- Is the NFC North down to two contestants?
That question seemed appropriate after watching Green Bay get steamrolled Monday night at the Superdome. The Packers (5-6) now trail Chicago (6-5) and Minnesota (6-5) by one game with five to play.
It's by no means an insurmountable deficit. But at the very least, the Packers will need help to win a division that many people favored them to take when the season began. They simply don't have enough head-to-head matchups left to do it on their own.
Green Bay has already finished its season series with the Vikings, and its remaining game against the Bears is at Soldier Field.
But such details won't be important until the Packers figure out what happened to their revered pass defense Monday night. In what was considered a strength-on-strength matchup, they were carved up by Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
You wouldn't expect an MVP candidate to fall completely on his face against any defense. But a good pass defense should at least make its share of plays. Instead, Brees compiled a near-perfect 157.5 passer rating, completing 13 consecutive passes at one point. He ended the game with 20 completions in 26 attempts for 323 yards and four touchdowns.
When the season is over, it's possible that NFC North observers will look back on Monday night and consider it the point where clarity began to emerge in the division race.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
This is what the New Orleans Saints were supposed to be all along: A team with a high-powered offense and a defense capable of coming up with some big plays.
It just took 11 games for it all to come together. Too little, too late?
Maybe not. The Saints thumped the Packers, 51-29, to win back-to-back games for the first time all season and moved to 6-5. They're still last in the NFC South, but they're not out of it. Really.
It's going to take something special -- like playing this way for the rest of the season -- but it's not impossible. The Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 8-3 and the Atlanta Falcons are 7-4.
Guess what? The Saints have games with each of their three division rivals along with contests with Detroit and Chicago sprinkled in. The Saints may not even have to run the table to get in the playoffs.
Winning four out of five might be enough to do the trick. With Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey suddenly starting to make plays and cornerback Jason David, long the least popular player on the roster, coming up with two interceptions, it's a start.
And maybe that late start is coming at just the right time.
NEW ORLEANS -- It looks like that interception from Green Bay safety Aaron Rouse just delayed the inevitable.
The Saints broke the game open with Drew Brees' second 70-yard touchdown of the game, this one to Marques Colston, to go up 45-21 with 2:26 left in the third quarter. Ironically, it was Rouse who took a horrible angle after Colston blew past cornerback Charles Woodson. Rouse was in no position to make the tackle after Colston caught the ball.
Television replays indicated that Colston might have flipped the ball away before he crossed the goal line, but the Packers did not challenge the play.
We'll be back with you if this game tightens up. Otherwise, we'll have something at the final gun and then a few hours later.
NEW ORLEANS -- You just got greedy, Sean Payton.
The Saints coach got too creative with an offense that has been steamrolling the Packers all night and just cost himself a chance, at least temporarily, to seal this game.
Green Bay safety Aaron Rouse just intercepted an ill-advised double-pass -- from Drew Brees to Lance Moore, who tried to throw to tailback Pierre Thomas. The play ended another Saints threat in the red zone. Rouse returned it to the Packers' 43-yard line to at least give the Packers another chance to stay in the game.
Luckily for Payton, the Saints defense forced the Packers to punt.
NEW ORLEANS -- Saints tailback Deuce McAllister, who might be in his final season with the team, just set a new team record with his 54th career touchdown. McAllister broke the record previously held by Dalton Hilliard.
He got the opportunity two plays after Green Bay receiver Greg Jennings slipped on an out route, giving Saints cornerback Jason David an easy interception. David returned it 42 yards to the Packers' 3-yard line.
The Saints now lead 38-21, and it's going to be awfully hard for the Packers to keep pace now in the NFC North.
NEW ORLEANS -- You just saw one of the first plays where Green Bay obviously missed middle linebacker Nick Barnett.
Saints tight end Billy Miller easily beat Barnett's replacement, A.J. Hawk, on a seam pattern for a 16-yard touchdown pass here midway through the third quarter. Hawk has been arguably better than Barnett against the run, but Barnett was definitely his superior in pass coverage before suffering a season-ending knee injury Nov. 9 against Minnesota.
The Saints ate up the first 6:26 of the third quarter on the scoring drive and now lead 31-21. More important for New Orleans, they got their running game going on the drive. Pierre Thomas had 29 yards, including four on a fourth-and-1 conversion on New Orleans' 45-yard line.
NEW ORLEANS -- Whew. Let me catch my breath and then I'll give you a few first-half observations.
OK. I'm fine now.
- Green Bay defensive end Aaron Kampman made a little noise at the end of the second quarter, twice getting into the backfield to force two incompletions from Saints quarterback Drew Brees. The pressure forced New Orleans to settle for a 30-yard field goal at the end of the half.
- Before that, however, Brees completed 13 consecutive passes. He finished the half 13 of 16 for 194 yards and two touchdowns. And he gets the ball to start the third quarter.
- The Packers, who entered the weekend with an NFL-high 16 interceptions, didn't get a hand on a pass until Nick Collins made a play on Brees' final pass of the half. Brees really hasn't given them any other opportunities.
- The Packers offense has been strong but is having to work much harder for its scores. Tailback Ryan Grant has 83 all-purpose yards, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers made a nice move to squeeze into the end zone on a 10-yard touchdown run. (Note that Rodgers landed squarely on his previously-sprained right shoulder. If he was in pain, he didn't show it.)
- There was one point, earlier in the game, when I wondered if Rodgers' shoulder was bothering him. In the first quarter, he threw low to a wide-open Greg Jennings about 20 yards downfield. But, sometimes a low throw is just a low throw.
- The Packers are rotating safeties Atari Bigby and Aaron Rouse, as they have done for several games. But before Kampman started getting into the backfield, nothing was working for their pass defense.
- Tony Moll finished out the first half at right tackle. Given how long starter Mark Tauscher stood on the sidelines, it would be a surprise to see him come back.
- Someone just walked past me and suggested the team with the ball last will win. Sounds about right to me.
NEW ORLEANS -- Green Bay just answered the question from our earlier post. How do you stop Drew Brees? Keep him off the field.
The Packers just ran off 6:35 off the clock here at the end of the second quarter, using a 14-play, 83-yard drive to make the score 21-21. The Packers converted four third downs on the drive, including Aaron Rodgers' 10-yard scramble on the final play for a touchdown.
We were going to say that the Packers managed to match Brees' effort in the first half, but Courtney Roby just returned the ensuing kickoff 62 yards to put Brees back in business. Check back with us at halftime.
NEW ORLEANS -- Not sure how they should go about it, but Green Bay needs to find a way to disrupt Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Because midway through the second quarter, you can say with objective certainty that Brees is working over the Packers' vaunted secondary.
I haven't seen the Packers get a hand on Brees for any of his 12 passes. He's completed 11 of them, calmly surveying the field until someone breaks open, for a total of 174 yards. The handful of blitzes I've seen haven't worked. The Packers offense has been proficient, but it's going to be hard to keep up the pace Brees has set.
It's 21-14 with 8:13 remaining in the second quarter. The Saints have nine first downs and a total of 186 offensive yards.
NEW ORLEANS -- There has been no contest early on between New Orleans' passing offense and Green Bay's pass defense.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees has thrown for 107 yards on the past two drives, both of which ended in touchdowns. He caught the Packers in a coverage switch to get Lance Moore a 70-yard touchdown reception, and he completed four consecutive passes prior to Pierre Thomas' four-yard touchdown run.
NEW ORLEANS -- Green Bay right tackle Mark Tauscher is back on the sideline but hasn't returned to the game. The Packers announced he has a hamstring injury and is questionable to return.
Green Bay took a 7-0 lead without him, taking advantage of excellent field position at the 37-yard line after a 19-yard punt return by Will Blackmon.
NEW ORLEANS -- How will Green Bay receiver Donald Driver respond to an emotional week that left his father hospitalized in Houston?
That's one of the pregame questions here at the Superdome. Driver rejoined the Packers late last week after spending time with his father in Houston. Donald Driver said he was relieved that his father's condition was improving, and ESPN reported Monday evening that Marvin Driver has been released from the hospital.
Driver is averaging 12.7 yards on 45 receptions this season and has scored three touchdowns.
NEW ORLEANS -- Newsflash: Reggie Bush still isn't playing Monday night for New Orleans.
Each team's inactive lists are below. Note that Green Bay receiver James Jones once again will be sitting out.
Defensive lineman Mike Montgomery will start at right end for the Packers.