The first game of what potentially could be the last dance for Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay didn’t go the way most Packers fans expected — they suffered a 38-3 drubbing at the hands of Jameis Winston and the New Orleans Saints in Jacksonville.
There were a lot of questions leading up to this game about both teams. How would the Saints play without Drew Brees starting Week 1 for the first time since 2005? How would Aaron Rodgers fare after an offseason filled with cryptic messages and trade requests? Where would the game be played due to Hurricane Ida ravaging New Orleans?
Turns out the Saints were fine playing away from home, and the Packers have some things they need to work on.
Here are five numbers to look at that tell the story of this embarrassing defeat.
With the Saints choosing the venue for the matchup after it was deemed that the game couldn’t be played in New Orleans, you might think that they decided on Jacksonville randomly, but you would be so very wrong.
Before the game, it was leaked that the Saints had deliberately chosen Jacksonville due to Rodgers’ struggles in the Sunshine State. Coming into this game, the future Hall of Fame QB had relatively subdued numbers in Florida, posting a record of 3-4 while completing under 60% of his passes and throwing for 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Some of these numbers were echoed in the loss as Rodgers completed a mere 54% of his passes and threw for three interceptions. While there might not be any real substance behind the quarterback’s struggles in Florida, it felt like his performance fell right in line with the Saints’ hopes.
It became clear that it would be hard for the Packers to get any run game going early in the game. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon finished with a combined 28 yards on nine carries. While the score dictated that the Packers air the ball out to keep pace, their inability to establish a run game early was very concerning.
The Packers’ offensive line had a hard time providing any space for the runners to get going; the ball-carriers averaged just 1.3 yards before contact. The Saints’ run defense could force Matt LaFleur to call more passing plays much earlier than he would have liked, rendering the Packers one-dimensional.
This allowed for the Saints to have safety help on Davante Adams and let their defensive line fire on all fronts, making Rodgers’ day harder than it already was. If the Packers want to challenge for a Super Bowl this season, they need to get their run game going and allow for the play calling to keep opposing defenses on their toes.
This number also sticks with the theme of the offensive line and how the Packers were beat in the trenches all day. Last season with David Bakhtiari and Corey Linsley, this team excelled in pass protection and was often able to give Rodgers a clean pocket. But Week 1 saw neither Lindsley nor Bakhtiari on the field; Lindsley departed for the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency, and Bakhtiari has started the season on the PUP list.
The loss of these two All-Pros was clear on Sunday as the Packers allowed an astonishing 15 pressures. While they did have to go to a pass-heavy offense early in the game, allowing 15 pressures isn’t a way to win many games.
It will be interesting to see how the Packers’ O-line responds next week in a much easier matchup vs. the Detroit Lions.
To put a bow on the Packers’ failures in the trenches on Sunday, we move to the defensive side of the ball with their nonexistent pass rush. Sean Payton expertly mixed the pass and run plays, which kept the Packers guessing the entire game and didn’t allow Za’Darius Smith and Co. ever to pin their ears back and go after Winston.
The Saints’ offensive line provided Winston with ample time to sit back in the pocket and survey the field before having to make a play. Winston averaged 3.14 seconds until his throw. For reference, the quarterback who had the most time-till-throw last year was Baker Mayfield, with 3.04 seconds.
The Packers’ defensive line needs to do a better job of getting to the opposing quarterback quickly. Otherwise, we could see many more good quarterbacks play like great quarterbacks.
Just one more number: The Saints averaged 5.4 yards per play against this Packers defense. They were able to run virtually any play they wanted with success. The linebacker corps looked exceptionally bad, with De’Vondre Campbell being the lone standout, recording six tackles, one of them for a loss.
Inside linebacker was one of the team’s main weaknesses this offseason, and aside from adding Campbell to this roster, they haven’t done much to bolster the position. Hopefully, with a renewed pass rush and a better performance from the linebacker corps, new defensive coordinator Joe Barry can put this performance behind him.