Monday School: What We Learned

The Green Bay Packers looked so good dismantling the Bears just eight days before, yet they looked so bad getting pasted by the high-flying Saints in front of a national TV audience. Here are five things we learned about the Pack after an ugly 51-29 defeat at the hands of New Orleans on Monday.

1. Brees might be the best QB in the league
Green Bay cornerback Al Harris had proclaimed the Packers secondary to be the best in the league. It wasn't boasting. He had reason to believe it. But Drew Brees said that his best was better than the Packers best. Well, there was no doubt who was right Monday night. For most of the game, Brees looked like he was on fast-forward while the Packers D was in slo-mo. Maybe he was trying to break Dan Marino's yardage record with five games to spare. Brees methodically and surgically sped through his progressions and fired quick strike after quick strike with pinpoint accuracy, whether it was across the middle or deep down the sideline. By the time he was done, Brees had thrown for four touchdowns and 323 yards on 20-of-26 passing. Included in those numbers were two 70-yard plays, and his 157.5 passer rating was just off the maximum 158.3. Marino's mark is definitely within reach.

Credit head coach Sean Payton, who used a bevy of different formations, motion, bunch formations and crossing routes to counter the Packers' man-to-man coverage and make it almost impossible for them to bump receivers coming off the line – both of which were Green Bay strong suits. It was the most points the Packers have given up since a 55-24 loss to the New York Giants in the 1986 season finale.


QB Aaron Rodgers
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

2. Rodgers didn't win it, but he didn't lose it either
Despite three interceptions, including two to Saints corner Jason David on back-to-back possessions, you can't hang this loss on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. On one of the picks receiver Greg Jennings slipped, although David, who Rodgers had success picking on in the first half, may have made the play anyway. On another, rookie Jordy Nelson should've kept coming on an in route. At least Rodgers put a nice lick on David during his first runback, knocking him out of bounds at the 4-yard line – not that it mattered.

On the plus side, Rodgers was 23 of 41 for 248 yards with two touchdowns, including 11 of 17 for 108 yards and a score in the first half. He also showed his athleticism when he scanned the field on third-and-6 at the Saints 10-yard line, saw all his receivers covered and took off for the end zone, diving in for a score with 1:52 left before the break to tie the game at 21. It was Rodgers' fourth rushing touchdown of the season.

3. No Bush, no problem
Credit the Saints for keeping their star running back's status for the game close to the vest. The Packers devoted practice time during the week preparing for the multi-dimensional threat that is Reggie Bush, including possible plays out of the Wildcat formation, this season's vogue offensive wrinkle that borrows a page from the University of Arkansas' playbook with direct snaps to the running back.

But who needs Bush or Wildcat trickery when you have Pierre Thomas, a back only fantasy football connoisseurs would know anything about. All Thomas did was rush for 87 yards on 15 carries with two touchdowns, along with snagging three passes for 34 yards. His 31-yard burst off right tackle with just under nine minutes remaining was the final nail in the coffin.


WR Ruvell Martin
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

4. Making the playoffs just got a whole lot harder
It's not like the Packers were going to run the board in their remaining six games, and it's not that the Vikings or Bears were either. But after watching their two division rivals secure wins Sunday, Green Bay fell on its collective face in front of a nationally-televised Monday night audience, losing 51-29. What makes this loss especially bad, aside from the actual score, is that it was a conference loss. Green Bay is now 4-5 in the NFC and behind 11 of the other 15 teams. Their only shot at the postseason will be to win the division.

With three NFC opponents among their five remaining games, including the Bears, it's imperative that the Packers win those games to keep their hopes alive. Of course, if the Packers can't correct the chaos that was their defense Monday night, they'll be lucky to win one more. And the Saints may have given the rest of the league a blueprint on how to beat them.

5. Frost is getting colder
In a game where everything went wrong, it might seem nit-picky to worry about punting. However, when you uncork a 24-yarder in a dome and you're not part of a halftime Punt, Pass and Kick competition, it's a problem. Jon Ryan was let go at the end of August to sign Derrick Frost, who was released by the Redskins. It was a curious move, but the Packers raved about Frost and his directional punting. But isn't "far away" a direction?

Frost entered the Superdome with a 42-yard average (28th in the NFL), a 36.4 net average (26th) with eight punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line (27th). Signed by the Seahawks after his release from Green Bay, Ryan is averaging 45.9 yards (ninth) and a 37.3 net (18th) with 12 kicks inside the 20 (23rd). While Frost had two key punts at Minnesota, this is a move that could cost the Packers down the stretch.

W. Keith Roerdink is a Staff Writer for Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at karoer@msn.com.


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