After showing steady progress over a four-game winning streak, Green Bay looked overmanned in the Superdome, losing 44-23 to the New Orleans Saints.
The Packers enter their bye week on a sour note, as the Saints overwhelmed them. New Orleans accumulated 495 total yards (302 passing, 192 rushing) and scored on eight of their 10 possessions.
Green Bay (5-3) is now halfway through their season, and it’s very clear they are a team with many flaws. It starts with coaching, where Coach Mike McCarthy made a couple of mind-numbing decisions on Sunday night.
I won’t fault him for the onside kick attempt, as it has worked in the past. However, McCarthy squandered a goal-line opportunity in the first quarter, after running back Eddie Lacy ran 67 yards on a screen pass to put them in position to take a 14-7 lead.
On first down, McCarthy lined quarterback Aaron Rodgers up in shotgun and ran Lacy to the right side. In order for the play to work, receiver Randall Cobb needed to execute a difficult crack-back block, which is illegal if executed improperly. Cobb missed the block, and the Saints stuffed Lacy. Asking a 192-pound receiver to make that block was probably too much, especially with the Saints playing their goal line defense.
McCarthy’s second-down call was the most controversial of the season. The Packers lined linebacker Julius Peppers out at receiver and opted to throw him a pass. However, instead of throwing Peppers -- who is 6-foot-7 -- a jump ball in the back of the end, the Packers had the veteran linebacker run a slant route. The pass fell incomplete.
The fact Green Bay felt it necessary to try unorthodox plays in order to beat the Saints speaks volume to their confidence entering Sunday night’s game.
The lack of confidence (assuming it existed) was surely the result of the defense, which was undermanned with three starters (cornerback Sam Shields, defensive lineman Datone Jones, and Safety Morgan Burnett) sitting due to injury.
Injuries are no excuse for the performance put forth by the defense, however. I thought I was watching a 2011 game, as Packer defensive backs launched their bodies at running back Mark Ingram instead of wrapping him up. Additionally, the defense looked slow on New Orleans’ turf. Receiver Brandin Cooks and tight Jimmy Graham had no problem leaving Green Bay’s defenders in their dust.
Here’s the rest of my week eight recap:
On New Orleans’ first second-half possession, Green Bay made a potential game-changing stop on fourth-and-2. The Packers took over at their own 43, and drove inside New Orleans’ red zone. On a second-and-3, Rodgers scrambled for about seven yards, and tweaked his hamstring while running out of bounds. He wasn’t the same after the injury. He didn’t trust his mobility in the pocket, and he wasn’t stepping into this throws. As a result, the velocity on his throws fell affecting his accuracy. The injury isn’t severe, but it would’ve been interesting to see how this game unfolded with a healthy Rodgers behind center.
Give defensive coordinator Rob Ryan credit for resisting the temptation to blitz Rodgers. The Packers are at their best when teams blitz them, so Ryan had to go against his nature and play coverage. The Saints were going to takeaway anything downfield. In many ways, they played a bend but don’t break defense. They were willing to surrender yards and field goals, as they knew their offense was capable of pouring it on Green Bay’s defense. The strategy worked, though Rodgers’ hamstring deserves an assist.
Dud of the Game
Not only did Green Bay’s corners let them down in the passing game, but they also couldn’t tackle the entire night. Cornerbacks Davone House and Tramon Williams played poorly on the edges, missing a combined five tackles. Perhaps the ankle injury that Williams sustained against Miami a few weeks back still bothers him. However, House had no excuses. He just played bad.
Green Bay historically plays well in the months of November and December. Since ‘09, the Packers have a combined November and December record of 29-14-1. Five of the losses were from last season, when Rodgers was out with a fractured collarbone.
The defense obviously needs to get better, especially against the run. The offense also has its faults. Running back Eddie Lacy has yet to carry the ball 20 times in a game this season. I understand the need to conserve him for the playoffs, but Lacy is a bell cow who gets better the more he touches the ball.
The Bears are the Pack‘s next opponent. Chicago’s struggled against the run for the better part of two seasons now. Riding Lacy in this game would be wise, as the second-year running back averaged 5.2 yards per carry in the month of October.