Road burn

The inflatable blimp which fell onto the field in the first half Sunday wasn't the only reminder of the Hindenburg: For the Packers, the 35-20 loss to the Saints in the Superdome was a disaster from start to finish.<p>

The Saints (2-0) took the opening kickoff and marched easily to touchdown and a lead they would never surrender. Green Bay (1-1) but couldn't seem to grab the opportunities that came their way.

The problems of last week became the problems of this week. Favre had little time to throw, a situation not helped by Mark Tauscher's knee injury. The defense couldn't stop the run, couldn't stop a mobile quarterback in Aaron Brooks, and couldn't stop a speedy receiver in Horn. The Packers cut it to 28-20 late but any similarities to last week's fabulous finish ended there and the Saints marched in to the end zone again and ended Packer hopes.

"It's the second week in a row we haven't stepped up to the level we need to play at,'' Packers coach Mike Sherman said.

Favre suffered his first interception of the season, although he was the victim of a bad carrom off his receiver. That bounce went New Orleans way, as did most of them.

"You make it easier on them, get the crowd into it, and you take yourself out of the driver's seat and put them in it,'' said Favre, who had eight busloads of fans on hand from his nearby h ometown of Kiln, Miss. "And they were in the driver's seat from the first snap.''

Brooks, who spent the 1999 season as Green Bay's third-string quarterback, was 16-of-28 for 217 yards and two touchdowns as the Saints jumped out to an early lead.

"We're happy, but a lot of the credit goes to the defense,'' Brooks said. "They stuck in there against Brett at a time that he was at his best.''

Indeed, the Saints 'D' was the star of the show Sunday.

Green Bay (1-1) gained 357 yards in total offense, but only 95 yards rushing. They completed just 22 percent of their third-down attempts (2-of-9) compared to 70 percent for the Saints, who also had 357 yards total. Favre, who was 9-0 in the Superdome coming in, including preseason games -- a Super Bowl win -- and two college victories, was on the run all game. He was 29-of-44 for 270 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked once and broke his string of 158 straight passes without an interception when Darrin Smith grabbed the errant bounce in the first quarter. He was called twice for intentional grounding.

"We came in knowing this was a good defensive team,'' said Packers tackle Earl Dotson. "I don't think they did anything we didn't expect. They were just the hungrier team today.''

The Saints opened with a 68-yard scoring drive that included three third-down conversions and 54 yards in passing by Brooks before McAllister ran in from 4 yards. McAllister, the inspiration for the "Ricky Who?" posters in the Superdome, rushed for 123 yards on 21 carries. He has 100-plus yards in both games so far.

Next, Brooks found Jerome Pathon with a 5-yard scoring pass to put New Orleans up 14-3. The Saints stretched the lead to 21-3 on a 34-yard touchdown from Brooks to Donte Stallworth with 2:03 left in the first half. The play was set up by a bruising block by Saints center Jerry Fontenot, and linemen Kyle Turley and Kendyl Jacox then escorted Stallworth to the end zone.

It could have been worse. a 53-yard TD run by McAllister was nullified by a holding call.

The Packers moved the ball against New Orleans' defense in the first half, but couldn't find the end zone until the final minute. Green Bay held the ball for 7½ minutes on its second drive, but had to settle for a 27-yard field goal after Saints safety Sammy Knight applied a wicked hit on Javon Walker at the goal line and jarred the ball loose.

The Packers' first touchdown came after Mike McKenzie intercepted Brooks, and Favre immediately hit Terry Glenn for a 14-yard score with 40 seconds left to make it 21-10 at the break. Glenn, a subject of much injury-related speculation, went up for the TD and slammed to the ground. The force of fall kept Glenn down for a moment, but he shook it off.

The Saints opened the second half with a touchdown. Keyou Craver picked up a fumble by Glenn and returned it 38 yards to make it 28-10 with only about one minute elapsed.

Favre cut the Saints' lead to 28-17 with 31 seconds left in the third quarter on a 26-yard scoring pass to Donald Driver. Favre was 4-for-4 for 65 yards on the 71-yard drive.

Ryan Longwell kicked his second field goal, a 36-yarder, to pull Green Bay to 28-20 with 4:36 left.

Speculation about the Packers' comeback chances didn't last long. The Green Bay D was porous at the worst possible time as McAllister sealed the victory for New Orleans with a 2-yard touchdown run that made it 35-20 at the two-minute warning.

Ahman Green rushed for 81 yards for Green Bay, and had 53 yards on 6 receptions. He injured his right knee and was spelled by Rondell Mealey. More information on Green's injury and Tauscher's knee sprain is expected Monday.

Maybe the Packers shouldn't sweat their 1-1 start. During the highly-successful Holmgren era, the Green and Gold started 1-1 four times.

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