X-and-O Show: Packers vs. Saints

Doug Farrar, our very own Prince of the Playbook, goes to the film room once again and breaks down one offensive snap and one defensive snap for the Green Bay Packers from Monday's 51-29 debacle at the hands of the New Orleans Saints in Week 12 at the Superdome.

Packers on Offense: Rodgers' Touchdown Run
This score tied the game at 21 late in the second quarter and marked the end of the competitive phase of the contest, primarily because Aaron Rodgers waited until the second half to throw his three interceptions. In the first half, he completed 11 of 17 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown, not to mention three rushing attempts for 19 yards. With 1:52 left in the first half, the Packers had third-and-6 at the New Orleans 10-yard line. Rodgers lined his offense up in a shotgun formation, with backs Brandon Jackson and Korey Hall flanking him on either side. At the snap, Rodgers took the ball and scanned the field, only to find that his three receivers – outside men Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson, and slot man Greg Jennings – were tightly covered by New Orleans' surprising pass defense.

QB Aaron Rodgers
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Rodgers received good protection from his line on the play, and when he stepped up in the pocket, he saw a huge hole in the Saints' defense to his right. While Jackson was open over the middle at about the 8-yard line, Rodgers saw his opportunity to the right. Rodgers took off running and didn't meet a New Orleans defender until Kevin Kaesviharn whiffed at the 4, and he eluded a Roman Harper tackle attempt just before paydirt.

For all of his second-half bloopers, Rodgers showed excellent presence of mind on this play. He didn't force a throw that wasn't there, and he took advantage of an opportunity that presented itself.

Had he kept his head in the second half, the Packers might have found a way to keep up with the explosive Saints.

Packers on Defense: Thomas Exposes Run D
The real surprise in this loss was that the usually excellent Green Bay pass defense was exposed by Drew Brees and his receivers. However, New Orleans' last touchdown of the game reminded us that the real problem this Packers team has been trying to overcome all season is a run defense ranked 29th in DVOA as of Nov. 18.

FootballOutsiders.com Illustration

With 8:54 left in the game, the Saints had first-and-10 at the Green Bay 31 and a 45-29 lead. The Packers had proven susceptible to backup running back Pierre Thomas before, and Brees handed the ball to Thomas on this play out of an extreme power formation. There were eight men blocking, including three tight ends, and two of those tight ends were Buck Ortega and Jeremy Shockey on the right side. The Packers had four on the line, two more defenders filling gaps, and cornerback Al Harris playing man coverage on receiver Robert Meachem away from the play.

By the time Brees took the ball and handed to Thomas five yards behind the line of scrimmage, the Saints had the power advantage. Ortega, lined up in the right slot, easily took safety Atari Bigby out of the play. Shockey engaged left end Aaron Kampman and pushed him outside, which allowed right tackle Jon Stinchcomb to seal inside on defensive tackle Justin Harrell. When weak-side linebacker Brandon Chillar came up to help at the line instead of playing to contain, he got blown out by Stinchcomb – Thomas was off to the races through the hole created by those three killer blocks.

For all the talk about the Saints' finesse offense, there are times when head coach Sean Payton is just as happy to line his guys up and see if he can blow you off the point, and that's just what happened here.

Doug Farrar is a Staff Writer for FootballOutsiders.com. He is also a Panelist for The Washington Post and a Contributor to The Seattle Times.

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