Ultimate Packers Game Review

It's our Play of the Game, Player of the Game, gaze into the Crystal Ball and 16 story-telling numbers — including YAC, missed tackles and yards after contact, plus several others that reverse some positive trends from the first seven games of the season. (Crystal LoGiudice/USA TODAY)

Packer Report reviews the Green Bay Packers’ 44-23 loss at the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night.

PLAY OF GAME

With the Saints leading 23-16, New Orleans coach Sean Payton won a challenge of the spot of Davante Adams’ third-and-7 reception. Somehow, the ball was moved from the 41-yard line, which would have been a first down, all the way back to the 40, which created a fourth-and-1. Packers coach Mike McCarthy, with running back Eddie Lacy running hard and his defense being tied in knots by New Orleans, kept the offense on the field. It’s hard to argue that logic.

What you can argue is the call.

McCarthy brought out a power package with fullback John Kuhn and Lacy lined up in the “I” formation, rookie tight end Richard Rodgers to the left and veteran tight end Andrew Quarless a step behind and to the right of right tackle Bryan Bulaga. Jordy Nelson, the lone receiver, was lined up wide right.

The left side of the line features Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton. The right side of the line was without veteran guard T.J. Lang. Nonetheless, McCarthy ran it right. Backup guard Lane Taylor was demolished by defensive end Tyrunn Walker, who knocked Taylor a couple of yards into the backfield. That caused a pileup, with Kuhn running into Walker at about the 38. Taylor pinballed to his right, with linebacker David Hawthorne running past Taylor to team up with Walker in making the stop.

“I was expecting a form of the Bear defense — we call it a jammed front, where they cover up (the center and two guards),” McCarthy said. “We got the defense, we had clean angles, poorly blocked there to the front side, which, frankly, has the tougher blocks on the back side. They obviously stopped us. Plus, Eddie was hot. I mean, Eddie was running the ball extremely well, and I was very comfortable with the call.”

New Orleans turned the field position into a short touchdown drive and, suddenly, it was 30-16.

PLAYER OF GAME

No different than Green Bay with Eddie Lacy and Aaron Rodgers, but this is the predicament the Saints put their opponents if they can get a running game going in front of Drew Brees.

The Saints got that running game going in a big way behind Mark Ingram. The 2009 Heisman Trophy and 2011 first-round pick destroyed the Packers for 172 yards on 24 carries, a gaudy 7.2 average. The Packers kept him in check in the first half (10 carries, 48 yards) but, other than a key fourth-and-2 stop to end the opening possession of the third quarter, the second half was a nightmare.

Ingram carried the ball 14 times for 124 yards in the second half. On its own, that would have been the second-biggest game of his career. Ingram, who had just one 100-yard game entering the night, had runs of 28, 21 (touchdown) and 18 yards in the second half, and four times he had at least 12 yards after initial contact in the final 30 minutes, by Packer Report’s count.

“We didn’t take a step back,” Packers linebacker Julius Peppers said. “These games are circumstantial. Things happen that set the tone for the game and things get out of hand at certain times, but I don’t think we took a step back as a defense. We just didn’t play well tonight.”

GAZING INTO CRYSTAL BALL

That Green Bay lost on Sunday night hardly is a surprise. After all, under coach Sean Payton, the Saints have now won 20 in a row at the Superdome. The only reason why the Saints were 2-4 entering the game was their minus-8 turnover margin.

So, Green Bay is 5-3 entering the bye — certainly a familiar position at the season’s midpoint. Green Bay was 5-3 when it won the Super Bowl in 2010, 5-3 when it went 11-5 and won the NFC North in 2012 and 5-3 when it went 8-7-1 and won the NFC North in 2013. With five home games and games at three teams ranging from lousy to mediocre (Minnesota, Buffalo and Tampa Bay), the Packers are in prime position.

“We’ll regroup now and take a week off,” Rodgers said. “We’ve got five of eight down the stretch at home. We expect to win those games every time we go at home. We’ve got three road games, a couple of them will be cold-weather, so there’s the potential of seven of eight cold-weather games, and that’s when we seem to play our best.”

NUMBERS WORTH NOTING

0: Penalties on the Packers' wide receivers this season. They were flagged twice: offensive pass interference and false start, both by Davante Adams. The interference penalty killed a potential touchdown drive.

1: Takeaway by the Packers, with the only one coming with 1:11 remaining in the game and the final outcome settled. Green Bay had forced 10 turnovers in the previous five games.

3: Giveaways by the Packers. The Packers had only one turnover during their four-game winning streak.

6.2: Yards per carry by New Orleans’ offense. The Saints entered the game ranked second in the league with 4.9 yards per carry.

10: Multi-interceptions in Aaron Rodgers’ 96 career starts.

10: Consecutive October games won by the Packers, a streak snapped on Sunday night. In those games, Rodgers had 27 touchdowns and one interception.

14.3: Percent conversion rate for Green Bay’s third-down offense, which moved the chains 1-of-7 times. The Packers entered the night ranked sixth at 44.6 percent. The Saints’ defense entered the night ranked 26th at 46.3 percent.

25.0: Percent conversion rate for Green Bay’s red-zone offense, which scored a touchdown on 1-of-4 trips inside the Saints’ 20. Green Bay entered the game ranked third with a touchdown rate of 70.4 percent. New Orleans’ defense entered the night ranked 26th at 66.7 percent.

60.0: Percent conversion rate for New Orleans’ third-down offense, which moved the chains 6-of-10 times. New Orleans’ defense entered the night ranked fourth at 50.0 percent.

123: Receiving yards by Eddie Lacy. Unofficially, according to Packer Report’s tally, 118 of those came after the catch. His career-high receiving game was 48 yards in last year’s tie at Minnesota, and Sunday’s yardage figure was more than Lacy had all season (86) and almost half of last year’s total (257).

138.4: Drew Brees’ passer rating. The Packers held the opposing starting quarterback to a passer rating of 82.5 in each of the last six games with a season total of 74.0. Brees, meanwhile, is 33-0 with a rating of at least 125.2.

172: Rushing yards by Saints running back Mark Ingram. Of those, 121 came after contact by Packer Report’s count. He forced 10 of the Packers’ 12 missed tackles, unofficially.

193: Rushing yards by the Saints. After allowing 164.0 rushing yards per game in the first four weeks, Green Bay had cut that number to 111, 112 and 108 the past three games.

249: Yards after the catch, by Packer Report’s unofficial count. If that’s close to accurate, it would be the third-most YAC by the Packers since STATS began tracking that stat in 1992. Green Bay officially had 295 YAC against Washington last season, 262 against Minnesota in 2009 and 228 against Miami in 1994. Most of Green Bay’s work on Sunday came in the first half, with 191 in the first two quarters and 58 in the second.

311: Passing yards by Brees. In his last four games against Green Bay, he has averaged 374.8 yards and has three touchdowns and no interceptions in each of those games.

414: Passing yards by Rodgers. That’s the second-most of his career and the fourth time over 400. In his first three, the Packers were 3-0 and he threw 12 touchdowns and one interception. On Sunday, the Packers lost as he threw one touchdown and two interceptions.

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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