Packers whip Saints, 52-3

Green Bay capitalizes on five Saints' turnovers

Don't throw dirt on the Green Bay Packers yet. Playing without three starters due to injuries and others who are limping along, the Packers played turnover-over free football and cruised to their first victory of the season.

Green Bay took advantage of five New Orleans' turnovers in its 52-3 rout over the Saints at sunny Lambeau Field before 70,580 fans. Cornerback Al Harris ignited the take-away barrage with two interceptions in the first half, and both led to touchdowns as the Packers stormed to a 35-3 lead.

Green Bay finished with its largest one-game point total since the Lynn Dickey-led Packers trampled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 55-14 on Oct. 2, 1983.

The win, Green Bay's first in five tries this season and first at home since it came from behind to beat the Detroit Lions on Dec. 12, 2004, remarkably keeps the banged-up Packers in the NFC North Division race. And Green Bay's upcoming bye week has arrived just in time.

The Packers played without running back Ahman Green (knee, quadriceps), linebacker Na'il Diggs (knee) and center Mike Flanagan (hernia). All three left Green Bay's emotional 32-29 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Monday night. Flanagan and Green could be ready to play when the Packers begin a challenging stretch of games, starting Oct. 23 against the Minnesota Vikings in the Metrodome. Diggs will be out until late November.

"Our back was very far against the wall," said Packers coach Mike Sherman. "It was nice to see them respond the way they responded with grit and determination in the first quarter like they did in the fourth quarter last week (against Carolina) and take that into today, which I thought they did. Today was one win. It's our fifth ball game. We still have a long road to go, but I was pleased with the effort today."

Green Bay's injury situation didn't improve any during the game. Running back Najeh Davenport, starting for Green, left the game late in the second quarter with a broken right ankle. He could miss the rest of the season. A number of other players played through nagging injuries, like offensive tackles Chad Clifton (ankle) and Mark Tauscher (arch), and Harris, who injured his knee late in the second half but was able to return. Harris said afterward he wasn't sure if he would play against the Saints after injuring his back against the Panthers on Monday.

Bubba Franks, who has missed the last two games with a bruised left knee, suited up but didn't play. He would have only been used if absolutely necessary, according to Sherman. Green Bay didn't need the Pro Bowl tight end, anyway.

Brett Favre coming off a 303-yard, four-touchdown game at Carolina, threw three touchdowns to three different receivers, including tight ends David Martin and Donald Lee, and wide receiver Robert Ferguson. Favre finished with 215 yards passing with no interceptions and wasn't sacked. Favre was 14 of 19 for 119 yards in the first half for a red-hot 124.7 passer rating.

"It's fun to be in a game like that," said Favre. "We have a long way to go, our schedule gets nothing but tougher. I don't think guys will get overconfident."

The Saints (2-3) played without Pro Bowl receiver Joe Horn and resembled the Packers in Green Bay's first four games this season. New Orleans committed 10 penalties for 99 yards in the first half and turned the ball over three times, which resulted in 21 points for the Packers. In all, the Packers, who entered the game with a league-worst minus-9 turnover ratio, scored 31 points off Saints' turnovers.

The Saints finished the game with 11 penalties for 107 yards. Green Bay matched its season best with six penalties for 36 yards.

Harris capitalized on Green Bay's first take-away of the game by intercepting a pass thrown by quarterback Aaron Brooks and returning it 22 yards for a touchdown. Harris's first interception of the season gave the Packers a 14-3 lead with 57 seconds left in the first quarter. Green Bay was playing a zone defense on the play. Harris, who covered New Orleans' top receiver, Donte Stallworth throughout the game, was surprised that quarterback Aaron Brooks threw his way.

"I was surprised that he threw it, I was really surprised that he threw it," said Harris, who was playing off Stallworth and made a break for the ball it it was thrown to the flat.

"We've been stressing turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Today we had ourselves in the right spots to get them."

The Packers cashed in again off Harris' second interception of the game at the end of the first quarter. Green Bay marched 68 yards downfield and went up 21-3 on Davenport's 4-yard touchdown run with 8:50 left in the half. Favre completed all four of his passes in the drive for 38 yards, and Davenport broke free around the right end for a 24-yard gain, Green Bay's longest rush of the season, to the Saints' 18.

Green Bay's defense, which played its best game of the season, forced New Orleans to punt after three plays on the ensuing series. The Packers quickly struck again and took a 28-3 lead on Favre's 25-yard touchdown pass to Ferguson. Favre began the three-play series with a 14-yard pass to wide receiver Donald Driver. Davenport rambled for 10 yards before Favre found Ferguson streaking across the back of the end zone ahead of safety Josh Bullocks.

Aside from their first drive of the game when they took a 3-0 lead on a 33-yard field goal by John Carney, the Saints never advanced inside Green Bay's 20-yard line. Carney missed twice from 43 yards in the first half.

"It came down to this - we had 13 penalties (actually 11), five turnovers, two missed field goals, dropped balls, missed tackles and bad coverage," said Saints coach Jim Haslett. "So it doesn't get any worse than that. We were just bad today. Green Bay played really well. I thought Brett (Favre) was outstanding. We just self-destructed. We were awful."

The Packers capitalized on New Orleans' third turnover of the first half when Favre hit Martin with a 1-yard touchdown pass with 24 seconds left in the second quarter. The score was set up when safety Nick Collins forced Saints tight end Ernie Conwell to fumble. The loose ball was recovered by defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila on the 19.

The Packers didn't let up after the intermission. Favre completed a 51-yard pass to Ferguson, Green Bay's longest pass play of the season, which set up his 26-yard touchdown to Lee. It was Lee's second touchdown in as many games.

Middle linebacker Nick Barnett finished the scoring burst by Green Bay with a 95-yard interception return with 8:19 left in the game. It was Barnett's first interception of the season and third of the game for the Packers.

Green Bay took only its second first-quarter lead of the season on Davenport's 1-yard run with 2:24 left in the opening period. Davenport's touchdown was not only his first of the season, but the first rushing touchdown of the season for the Packers.

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