With Rodgers and Brees, Expect a Shootout

Given the history between the Packers and Saints, the quarterbacks and coaches who will take center stage on Sunday night are well aware of the possibility of plenty of offensive firepower being unleashed in the Superdome. (Brad Barr/USA TODAY)

Will Sunday night’s game be a shootout at the Superdome?

Or, perhaps it’s better to scrap the question form and simply say Sunday night’s game at the Superdome will be a shootout.

The histories of the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints do far more than suggest their primetime matchup will be a high-scoring affair.

When these teams last met in September 2012, the Packers won 28-27 at Lambeau Field. Comparatively speaking, that game was a defensive slugfest. When they met in the season-opening game in 2011, the defending champion Packers won 42-34. And when these teams squared off in the Superdome in 2008, New Orleans ran away in the second half for a 51-29 win. In those three games, the Packers and Saints combined to average 70.3 points. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the second-highest scoring average in games played between two teams (minimum three matchups) during that timeframe.

“I think each game can take on a shape of its own,” Saints coach Sean Payton said in a conference call on Wednesday afternoon. It’s easy to say, ‘Well, you start with both teams have had good offenses.’ Yet, just as we say that, you can find yourself in one of those 17-13 games.”

Yeah, probably not this time.

Mike McCarthy took over as Green Bay’s coach in 2006. Payton took over as New Orleans’ coach in 2006, as well. During their tenures, New Orleans ranks second in the league with 27.8 points per game while Green Bay ranks third with 26.8 points per game.

The coaches aren’t the only common threads. Aaron Rodgers took over as Green Bay’s quarterback in 2008 and, in terms of points per start, is the highest-scoring quarterback in NFL history. In each of his eight seasons since signing with New Orleans in 2006, Drew Brees has topped 4,000 passing yards. He holds the NFL record with a touchdown pass in 54 consecutive games.

“I think certainly there’s some similarities in the fact that you’ve got veteran, outstanding quarterbacks, certainly experienced offenses,” Payton said.

The likelihood of a shootout certainly is on McCarthy’s mind. Not that there’s ever a time when he doesn’t want his offense to score as many points as possible, but he realizes the possibility that the Saints will get rolling, as well.

“I think you go into every game and shoot all your bullets. Hopefully, you're hitting them and they're not hitting you,” McCarthy said on Wednesday. “But we'll see how it goes. I think you definitely, as you put your plan together, you recognize the play style of the football team and, obviously, where you're playing is definitely a factor here (since) it's on turf. This is going to be a fast environment. It's an important game for both teams. We want to finish the first half of our season correctly. We're going to try and score as many as we can and we're going to try to stop them from scoring.”

Neither quarterback said the prospects of a shootout would change how they play. Rodgers said his focus was more on situational football, such as third down and red zone. Success in those areas will ensure Green Bay’s offense is taking care of its business.

Brees, perhaps, was a bit more honest. Or perhaps he was aware of the state of the Saints’ disappointing defense. Either way, he said his team can’t afford to waste possessions against a Green Bay offense operating at high efficiency.

“No, you can’t (think about the possibility of a shootout),” Brees said. “In every game, you have the same philosophy, and that is you think about execution, you think about taking care of my responsibilities as a quarterback. Getting us in the right plays, getting us into the best plays, taking advantage of opportunities when we get them, the opportunity to make a big play down the field or continue a drive or whatever it might be. You understand that, man, every possession is just that much more important.”

Payton said he’s not going to prepare as if this will be a shootout. However, he knows his game plan has to be flexible enough to adjust to whatever circumstances develop.

“I think you go into a game with your mind set (on) how you’d like to see a game unfold,” he said. “And yet, with the experience of doing this a while now, you recognize that those things can change quickly. I think you’ve got to pay close attention to what’s happening during that game as much as the preparation leading up to it and what your plan was for that game, if that answers your question.”

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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