Report card vs. Saints

Here is an assessment of each area of the team, along with grades, for the Green Bay Packers in the wake of their loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Lambeau Field. The Saints beat the Packers 34-27.

Big games by Brett Favre and Donald Driver were tarnished by a half-dozen dropped passes and an ill-advised short throw by Favre under duress into the end zone for his only interception. That miscue came on the 15th play of an impressive drive that should have regained the lead for the Packers, who trailed 14-13 at the time. They never had the upper hand again thereafter.

Driver was clutch on third down in the second half and finished with eight catches for 153 yards, 9 yards short of his career high. The drops notwithstanding, Favre threw for 340 yards on 31-of-55 accuracy and three touchdowns, including a 22-yard strike to Greg Jennings at the outset that may have gotten the rookie on track after he was held to one catch in the opener.

Driver not only starred in the passing game, he had the team's longest run with a 16-yard pickup on an end-around in the third quarter. Otherwise, the Packers mustered atrocious numbers and left head coach Mike McCarthy with no other choice than to abandon the run.

The offensive line was beaten often the snap by its speedy Saints counterparts. Ahman Green's longest run was for eight yards out of a shotgun draw on second-and-long, and he had only three carries of more than five yards. He averaged a measly 2.6 yards in 16 carries. Plus, the notorious early-season fumbler had a costly turnover on the first play after the Saints went ahead 27-20 with eight minutes left in the game.

The Packers essentially had only two backs available because Vernand Morency, acquired four days earlier in a trade with Houston for Samkon Gado, wasn't up to speed. Noah Herron provided just 5 yards in three carries spelling Green.

Generating a pass rush was a big question mark hanging over the team entering the season, but end Aaron Kampman has provided an emphatic answer in the first two games with four sacks. A career-high-tying three takedowns came Sunday, highlighted by a swipe of the football from Drew Brees' right hand and a recovery in the game-opening series that lit a spark that proved to be fleeting. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila also was active early with applying pressure in the pocket. The downfall for the second straight week, though, occurred behind the linemen.

Free safety Nick Collins was scorched on two long throws from Brees in one-on-one coverage, culminated by a 35-yard touchdown to rookie Marques Colston for the game-winning score midway through the fourth quarter. Nickel back Ahmad Carroll, replacing Al Harris at the time in the base, bit on a slant fake from Devery Henderson and allowed a 26-yard touchdown late in the first half.

Though no fault of his own, linebacker Brady Poppinga wound up in man coverage with Joe Horn in the slot and was left chasing on a 57-yard play in the third quarter.

The primary focus for the defense was corralling the Saints' two-headed backfield monster of Deuce McAllister and versatile Reggie Bush. Aside from Bush's team-high eight receptions for 68 yards, he was a non-factor in the game, especially in the run game. After he picked up 6 yards on an end-around on the second play from scrimmage, Bush's subsequent carries went for minus-1, 1, 0, 0 and minus-1 for a final output of six attempts for 5 yards. Five of the six runs were outside the tackles, and defenders, particularly linebacker A.J. Hawk, were quick in pursuit.

McAllister was just as ineffective until he tore right through the heart of the line for a decisive 23-yard touchdown in the final quarter. It accounted for half of his 12-carry, 47-yard output.

Dave Rayner was solid and exceptionally long on his kickoffs, benefiting at times from a strong wind at his back, and he connected on both of his field-goal attempts in the early going to stake the Packers to a 13-0 lead.

Jon Ryan was typically prolific with his punts, averaging 47.7 yards with a long of 57 in six attempts. A few misplaced kicks, though, gave Bush and Lance Moore the time and space for some sizable returns, as they averaged 10.7 yards.

The Packers again had little out of their return units. Charles Woodson did more dancing in place than running and averaged but 3.3 yards in three chances. The newly acquired tandem of receiver Koren Robinson and Morency were back on kickoffs. Robinson, a Pro Bowler at the spot last year, was no great shakes with an average of 18.3 yards in four chances. Morency showed a better burst and feel for getting upfield with a late runback of 28 yards.

Coach Mike McCarthy went with a novel approach in these parts by going no-huddle on offense for two series, one in each half, in an effort to accelerate the tempo in the wake of a shutout loss in the opener. The ploy was effective in netting a field goal late in the first quarter for a 13-0 lead.

The Packers should have had more points out of the first three drives, all set up by turnovers. The fact that they couldn't maintain that sizable advantage at home brings into question the preparedness of the new coaching staff, the predominant youth and inexperience of the roster notwithstanding.

Although McCarthy planned to throw the football more, putting the burden on Favre to put it up 55 times compared to only 20 running plays is excessive.

Communication problems were evident, with the defense having to take a timeout because it had 12 players on the field and the offense looking out of sorts on at least one occasion because players were aligned wrong.

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