Green Bay Packers: 5 Lessons Learned Against New Orleans Saints
The Green Bay Packers outlasted the New Orleans Saints 42-34 in a wild Week 1 showdown to open the season 1-0. Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees were magnificent in the NFL season opener, but the Packers defense came up with just enough big plays to give Green Bay the win.
The incredibly entertaining game featured two of the NFC favorites as well two of the best offenses led by two of the best quarterbacks in the game. After a fair share of fireworks and a bounty of touchdowns, the game came down to the final play.
The Packers defense came up big to stop the Saints on the 1-yard line on an untimed down following a pass interference in the end zone. Mark Ingram was stuffed as he failed to move the ball the three feet the Saints needed.
Here are some takeaways from a wild season opener.
1. Rodgers, Offense Could Be Historically Good
Aaron Rodgers came out of the gates smoking hot, missing only one pass on his first three possessions. He started the game 14-of-15 with three touchdowns. He cooled off after his hot start but maintained a level of play many NFL teams would love out of their quarterbacks.
Rodgers did an exceptional job of spreading the ball around to his multitude of targets. Greg Jennings had seven catches, Jordy Nelson had six, Donald Driver had four, Jermichael Finley had three, Randall Cobb and John Kuhn each had two, and three players each had one catch.
With the amount of talented surrounding Rodgers, the Packers offense has a chance to become one of the best the game has seen. Rodgers has quickly climbed the ladder and become one of, if not the best quarterback in the game. It is quite early, but based on potential and the talent around him, Rodgers could become one of the greatest at the position.
The Packers seem to have finally found a solid running game in their backfield, led by the duo of Ryan Grant and James Starks. The two combined for 21 carries and 97 yards. Additional carries from Kuhn put the Packers over the 100-yard rushing mark.
Going forward, it will be tough for any defense in the league to stop the Packers. With playmakers all over the field, the Packers offense has the potential to become one of the greats.
2. Randall Cobb Is a Legitmate Playmaker
Randall Cobb scored twice in his NFL debut as he proved his ability to play at the next level. Cobb scored late in the first quarter to put the Packers ahead 21-7 on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers. In the third quarter, Cobb outdid himself as he tied an NFL record with a 108-yard kick return for a touchdown.
Cobb's first-quarter score came as he caught the pass in space, made a defender miss, raced down the field and leaped into the end zone for the first touchdown of his career. It has been a while since the Packers have had a wide receiver that could match Cobb's speed.
The Saints opened the third quarter with a long drive ending in a field goal. Momentum was shifting towards the Saints when Cobb decided to take the kickoff out from eight yards deep. Cobb was hit around the 23-yard line, but maintained his balance through a spin move that sent him off to the races. Cobb's sensational speed did the rest of the work.
3. Jordy Nelson Deserves New Contract
Jordy Nelson delivered another great performance for the defending champs, continuing the momentum he built at towards the end of the season. He finished the night with six catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Throughout the game, Nelson was consistently getting separation down field.
On the Packers second drive of the game, Rodgers hung in the pocket and delivered a strike to Nelson in the end zone to give the Packers an early 14-0 lead.
Nelson will be a free agent after this season and could have multiple suitors as a potential No. 1 threat. The Packers should pay the man to keep him in Green Bay opposite Greg Jennings. Donald Driver's age is a concern, but the trusty wide receiver definitely showed he still has gas in the tank.
If the Packers can keep Nelson in Green Bay, they will continue to have one of the best receiving corps in the NFL for years to come.
4. Driver Still Has It
While many have written off the aging vet, Driver is doing what he has always done: He is making sure to prove them wrong. Less than 24 hours after his wife gave birth to their third child, Driver came back healthy from last season's ankle injury to show he still has what it takes to be a legitimate threat on this team.
Driver had four catches for 41 yards, tying James Lofton's all-time Packers receiving record. The two will most likely only be tied until next Sunday when the Packers travel to face the Carolina Panthers. He enters the game needing only a single yard to break the record.
Back to his old self, Driver finally looked healthy and made several defenders miss. Battling a quadriceps injury for most of the season, Driver saw his production cut nearly in half. His cuts and acceleration looked to be much better than last season.
5. Packers Defense Comes Up with Big Plays When Necessary
The Packers defense surrendered 27 points on the night, but came up with many big plays that kept the Saints off the board. They forced big stops on two Saints' drives that ended up being field goals instead of touchdowns and came up with two huge stops on critical, drive-ending downs.
In a game where the offenses matched either fairly well, the Packers defense came up with enough plays to set them apart from the Saints. The win was a quality team win, but the Packers defense overshadowed the Saints defense with stops on crucial downs.
In the third quarter, with the Packers up 42-17, the Saints decided to go for it on 4th-and-1 from the Packers' 7-yard line. A play-action pass was blown up by the Packers as Brees ran for his life before throwing the ball incomplete.
On the final play of the game, after an A.J. Hawk pass interference call extended the game, the Saints had to gain one yard on an untimed down. A run by Mark Ingram was blown up by the Packers bigs up front, and Morgan Burnett and Co. did the rest to make sure Ingram did not cross the plain.
Although the Packers gave up a good chunk of yardage and some points, they made big plays when they were needed and did just enough to pull out a win. This is arguably the best offense the Packers will face this season and the Packers defense passed the test.