The New Orleans Saints played host to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, but the Packers were the ones who stole all the momentum at the tail end of a premium NFC shootout. Drew Brees rebounded from a quiet Week 2 loss with three touchdowns, including two to star play-maker Alvin Kamara, and the Saints appeared on their way to a potential late-game victory thanks to a crucial fourth-down stop. Aaron Rodgers and Co. were more dangerous, however, driving up and down the field to claim a 37-30 win and improve to 3-0 on the 2020 NFL season.
Here are some immediate takeaways from the Packers’ third straight win.
Why the Packers won
The Saints may have some good pieces on their defense, but like Derek Carr a week earlier, Aaron Rodgers just picked them apart on Sunday night — except in much more thrilling, big-play fashion. Without Davante Adams in the lineup, No. 12 still managed to connect on a handful of beautiful bombs and thrive on rollout tosses while feeding an ultra-productive Allen Lazard. He also killed New Orleans in crunch time with his smarts, most notably drawing a pair of penalties to put the Pack in the red zone with a lead and under four minutes to play.
Credit Matt LaFleur for dialing up a game plan to keep the Saints on edge all night long, and credit Rodgers for executing it with authority. Defensively, Green Bay wasn’t nearly as effective, allowing Alvin Kamara to rack up video-game stats as Drew Brees’ top passing outlet, but they also took away most of Brees’ outside targets, limiting Sean Payton’s attack to a dink-and-dunk approach for much of the evening.
Why the Saints lost
Most of the blame belongs with the defense, where New Orleans and its veteran leaders — Cameron Jordan, Malcolm Jenkins, Demario Davis — failed for a second straight week at keeping things within reach. Marshon Lattimore may have had a critical fourth-down stop, and Davis may have sacked Rodgers, but a couple of highlights mean nothing when you give up nearly 40 points at home, especially to a team without its clear-cut No. 1 wideout. Where in the world was the bootleg defense? Rodgers had nothing but wide-open targets.
You can also attribute some of the late-game shift in momentum away from the Saints to Sean Payton’s decision-making, specifically his insistence on incorporating Taysom Hill at inopportune times. Drew Brees, meanwhile, shouldn’t be lambasted for a very efficient performance that rightfully fed Alvin Kamara (an absolute stud in the game), but you still have to wonder whether his hesitancy to push the ball downfield has hindered their ability to win shootouts.
Tied at 27, the Saints had just gotten a huge stop on a fourth-and-1, stuffing an Aaron Jones run to take over early in the fourth quarter. But then, instead of calling on Brees to continue his efficient short-area passing attack, Sean Payton trotted out Taysom Hill for a read option, during which Hill fumbled away the ball, gave Green Bay possession and set up a Packers field goal that put the visitors out in front for good.
Play of the game
No one came close to matching Kamara on his razzle-dazzle catch-and-run TD to knot the game at 27 late in the third quarter. This play alone epitomized a huge night for the Saints’ star running back, who just might be the best non-QB play-maker in the NFL:
The Saints (1-2) will hit the road in Week 4 to take on the Detroit Lions (1-2), who just upset the Arizona Cardinals in a comeback victory. The Packers (3-0), meanwhile, will be back in prime time on Monday night to take on the Atlanta Falcons (0-3), who have now blown two straight 15-point fourth-quarter leads after falling to the Chicago Bears in Week 3.
NO -3.5, o52
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Anyway, Green Bay is going to get the win here, 37-30. Packers improve to 3-0, Saints drop to 1-2. Aaron Rodgers looks like an MVP contender through three weeks, and the Saints need Michael Thomas back soon.
…why did the Packers watch the ball just like the Falcons did? They got lucky that it didn’t break toward the 45-yard line.
It’s all riding on the onside kick now. Let’s see if Green Bay can do better than Atlanta did last week.
Suddenly the Saints are in scoring position. If you’ve ever played Madden, you know they should kick the field goal right here and try for the onside kick.
Another bootleg, another easy completion, another touchdown. Great drive from the Packers, pretty much putting the game away. And again, waiting until 2:04 to challenge allowed for Green Bay to have a pass play called there without worrying about the clock, because it was going to be the two-minute warning anyway.
So one thing I like about what LaFleur did with the challenge right there is this: No matter what, if the challenge is successful, the clock gets reset to the time where Jones crossed the line. But if the challenge is unsuccessful, it’s better for the Packers for that to happen with 2:04 left than right when they got to the line of scrimmage.
That sure looks like a touchdown to me. The Packers are using their challenge to try to confirm that. Replay review during the commercial.
Janoris Jenkins is having a r.o.u.g.h. night in coverage.
It’s almost better for the Packers that Williams got stuffed there (assuming they get in eventually), because they can run more clock.
Not only did Rodgers get the free play with about 11 hard-counts, but Lazard drew pass interference in the end zone. Wow.
Sternberger had the first catch of his career on the previous drive, and now he’s got three of them. Big contributions from last year’s second-round pick.
Let’s see what Green Bay has in a potential clock-killing situation right here. 6:36 to go and nursing a three-point lead, they can run some time and/or extend the lead to two scores right here.
Interesting that the Packers kicked a 49-yard field goal here instead of letting Rodgers go for it, after they went on fourth down earlier in the drive. Either way, Green Bay now leads 30-27.
It really seems like there’s an open receiver on every Packers bootleg.