Saints vs Packers: Where Do Green Bay and New Orleans Need to Improve Most?

Cian FaheyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 9, 2011

NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 12: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints looks on as his team plays the San Francisco 49ers during a preseason game at Louisiana Superdome on August 12, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

There was plenty to love if you were a Green Bay Packers fan last night; there was also plenty to like about the New Orleans Saints.

However, both sides definitely have their issues.

When the score is 42-34, there generally aren't many plaudits being handed out to the defenses. Despite how stellar Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees were, both defenses have concerns that will need to be addressed.

The Packers' biggest problem was simple in that they couldn't get consistent pressure on Drew Brees despite getting three vital sacks—two of which came in the red zone at critical moments.

The team will look to Clay Matthews to crank up the pressure as the season goes on, but he won't be able to do it all on his own. Matthews spent a significant amount of time in coverage last night rather than looking to get the better of Zach Strief.

For the Saints, many will point to the secondary as a major area in need of improvement, but the secondary last night did pretty well. On many of Rodgers' throws in the first half, the corners were in good position, but the ball placement on the throw was perfect and made it impossible for them to make plays.

The Saints' problem last night wasn't coverage—it was the clean pocket that Aaron Rodgers was throwing the ball from. The team got absolutely no pressure on Rodgers through the middle to put a hand in his face. Rodgers could sit in the pocket and survey the field with ease, seeing every throw that he wanted to make.

With Will Smith suspended and Alex Brown previously released, the Saints couldn't get pressure off of the edges either. That is something that should improve as Cameron Jordan adjusts in his rookie season and Smith returns.

Defensively, that was all that the Saints were missing.

Offensively, they did enough to win the game, but Sean Payton's play-calling was ineffective in important moments. Short yardage was a particular issue, as the team struggled to convert near the goal line because of predictability. Generally, Payton is one of the best play-callers in the league, so you can't overly criticize him for one bad game.

Just like players, coaches have good and bad days. It's the nature of being human.

Needless to say, the special teams play from both sides was unacceptable last night. While the punt return for a touchdown by Darren Sproles was more to do with it being an excellent return, the kickoff coverage from both sides was lax.

It looked as if the coverage teams were just expecting a touchback on every play, so they weren't taking their assignments seriously. This is a result of them playing the first game of the regular season. There is no doubt that any coach of the other 30 franchises that was watching this game will emphasize special teams importance ahead of this weekend.

Both the Saints and Packers should be competing in the NFC this year, but like any franchise, both have some creases to straighten.