The Packers did none of those things correctly in getting blasted 44-23 at New Orleans on Sunday night.
The Packers had dominated the turnover ledger by going plus-8 during their streak with nine takeaways and one giveaway. On Sunday, the Packers were minus-3 with no takeaways and three giveaways before forcing a fumble in the final moments.
The Packers ranked third in red-zone offense with a touchdown rate of 70.6 percent. Green Bay, however, was a miserable 0-for-3 until a late touchdown drive.
The Packers’ run defense had slowly been improving. The Saints’ Mark Ingram destroyed that unit for 172 yards.
The turning point came in the third quarter. With the game tied at 16 following a fourth-down stand by the defense, Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy quickly drove the Packers into the red zone. However, on a scramble that gave Green Bay (5-3) a first-and-goal at the 6, Rodgers came up clutching his left hamstring. One play later, his 213-pass streak without an interception was ended with Rodgers’ pass to Andrew Quarless was deflected by Corey White and intercepted by David Hawthorne.
The Saints (3-4) promptly drove 88 yards, with Brees’ 50-yard bomb to rookie Brandin Cooks against cornerback Tramon Williams and safety Micah Hyde putting them ahead for good at 23-16. The Packers’ next drive ended when Lacy was stopped on fourth-and-1 at the Packers’ 40. Moments later, Brees hit tight end Jimmy Graham for a 22-yard touchdown over Williams.
Green Bay’s next drive ended with another interception when it appeared rookie receiver Davante Adams stopped his route and the ball deflecting off his hands and into the hands of White. The Saints turned that turnover into another touchdown, a Brees-to-Josh Hill toss on second-and-goal that made it 37-16. It was Brees’ third touchdown pass of the game; he had only five incompletions.
Rodgers finished 28-of-39 for 418 yards, led by Lacy’s eight catches for 123 yards and Randall Cobb’s five catches for 126 yards.
The game was tied 16-16 at halftime, with the Packers having only themselves to blame.
After both teams traded touchdowns on their opening drives, Lacy took a screen and rumbled 67 yards — including the final 45 yards after contact and the final 17 of those on a bullish stiff-arm. One of the NFL’s best red-zone attacks, however, stalled on first-and-goal at the 3. After Lacy was stuffed on first down, McCarthy — who after Peppers’ pick-six against Minnesota said Peppers had good enough ball skills to play on offense — inserted Peppers into the lineup. Peppers, lined up to the far left of the formation, was open on a slant but dropped the pass. On third down, Cameron Jordan came in untouched to sack Rodgers. Green Bay settled for a field goal and a 10-7 lead.
The Packers’ next drive had a first down at the Saints’ 24. Holding on left tackle David Bakhtiari and a drop by Cobb doomed that drive, with Mason Crosby nailing a 49-yard field goal to give the Packers a 13-10 lead.
The Packers’ next drive had a first down at the Saints’ 13. Rodgers hit Davante Adams for 11 to the 2, but the rookie was flagged for offensive pass interference. A delay-of-game penalty followed, and Crosby hit a 27-yarder field goal to make it 16-13.
Both teams had four first-half possessions, with both teams scoring an opening touchdown and three field goals. Rodgers had 278 passing yards — 70 of which came on a touchdown pass to Randall Cobb — while Brees was an efficient 16-of-21 for 187 email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.