Brees and Rodgers looked like two of the NFL's best Sunday at Lambeau Field (AP Photo Mike Roemer)
There is no shame going into Lambeau Field and losing by a point. The Saints undoubtedly put forth their best effort of 2012.
The problem is they were 0-3 going into Sunday. And now they're 0-4 for the first time since 2007.
Not a fun place to be.
Let's break it all down.
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Before Sunday Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers were struggling.
After Sunday, both quarterbacks are who we thought they were: the best two quarterbacks in the NFL.
Both were on fire Sunday in a game reminiscent of the 2011 season opener.
Brees and Rodgers were under constant pressure the week prior to Sunday's game. Rodgers was sacked eight times in one half. Brees was sacked four times. So both offenses made the same adjustment for Sunday and it worked wonders: they played most of the game in the shotgun formation.
Rodgers was 28/33, 299 yards, four touchdowns and one interception out of the shotgun.
Brees went 28/35 261 yards and two touchdowns in that formation.
This simple adjustment gave both quarterbacks more time to pick apart the opposing defenses and reminded those that they may have forgotten that they are part of the elite signal-callers in the NFL.
Pass Rush Woes
If the Saints hope to have any chance at turning their season around, they have to be least average in the pass rushing department.
On Sunday they had none. Zero.
Yes, as I outlined above, Rodgers spent most of the afternoon in the shotgun which did buy him some more time, but the Saints certainly didn't help matters. Rodgers had a clean pocket all game long.
Steve Spagnuolo even used their best pass rush combination of Junior Galette, Martez Wilson, Will Smith and Cam Jordan. It still didn't work.
The Saints defensive line consistently lost the one-on-one battles with Green Bay's offensive line all game long. It truly was a step backward for an embattled unit that had subtle improvement against Kansas City.
Running Game Debate
20 carries a game has always been the benchmark for this team .The Saints are 1-21 under Sean Payton when they don't reach that level.
On Sunday the Saints had 19 carries. As I closely watched that game, the ideal amount of rushes would have been 20-22.
Contrary to popular opinion, it would NOT have been wise to run much more than that.
One, Brees was on fire. Two, when they did run it, the Saints went nowhere. Darren Sproles' nine-yard run in the fourth quarter was their longest run of the day.
There was only one instance where the Saints did not run the ball and should have. And it's not hard to figure out where.
With a fresh set of downs inside the one-yard line after a personal foul penalty, the Saints should have tried at least one if not two runs from the one-yard line. As we saw the Saints ran three consecutive passes. All three fell incomplete.
One more run would have gotten them to twenty carries. One more run could've meant one more touchdown. One more run could've meant the game for the Saints.
- One trend from the Saints defense that I love is the takeways. With the fumble recovery and interception Sunday, that's now five takeaways in two games. The Saints scored ten points off these turnovers against Green Bay. Although it did not in the past two games, eventually these extra possessions will lead to Saints wins.
- Speaking of that fumble, when I initially saw it I was laughed at how clumsy Graham Harrell appeared to be. But after watching the tape, I saw the initial pursuit by Broderick Bunkley who pushed the center and guard backwards. Harrell then tripped over the guard's foot which impacted the handoff exchange. Bunkley's effort created a huge 14-point swing in the game.
- I hear the frustration loud and clear from the Who Dat Nation on Mark Ingram. He has not produced. The question is why. I've studied Ingram's game since last year and I'm starting to wonder how well he truly fits into this offense. Maybe he's the type of back that needs 15-20 carries a game to be productive. That will never happen for any running back consistently in this offense. Secondly, I thought Troy Aikman made a good point in the broadcast when he said defenses almost always think run when Ingram is in the game. Basically, Ingram is going up against a lot of team's best run-stopping packages. Whether it's the blocking or his running style it just feels like Ingram always runs into a wall at three yards or less. If this trend continues, it may be wise for the Saints to run play-action with Ingram in the game. It may be the only time a defense ever truly respects their play-action game.
- Welcome back Marques Colston! Colston worked the middle of the field and gashed the Packers for nine catches, 153 yards and one touchdown. Of those nine catches all but two went for a first down or touchdown. Colston's presence also opened things up for Jimmy Graham who had seven catches for 76 yards. Graham had been getting a lot of double-coverage with Colston gimpy. With both healthy, defenses could not double both.
- Credit Joe Morgan's 80-yard touchdown catch to film study. Or in the Packers' case, the lack of film study. Green Bay simply didn't respect Morgan's speed or pass-catching ability.
- Brees threw for 446 yards but could have surpassed 500 yards had Saints wide receivers not dropped, by my count, four passes in the game.
- I know you guys love to beat up on Garrett Hartley. I get why. Is it fair to expect a kicker to make a 48-yarder? Yes. But the truth is he only deserves part of the blame for that kicking debacle. For starters, Darren Sproles should have caught the ball on third down. Secondly, Dave Thomas did not have to hold his man. All he need was a simple push and Hartley would have had enough time to get his 43-yarder off to take the lead. Plus, the back-to-back penalties essentially iced Hartley twice. Tough scenario to succeed but one he's paid to do but like a lot of other players so far this season, he simply did not do it.
- If I were a Packers fan, I'd be sick if Green Bay would have lost that game. The Saints got an incredible amount of breaks. But they should also hold their head coach accountable as well. Mike McCarthy wasted a challenge on an obvious incomplete pass to Jordy Nelson earlier in the game. Had he not killed that challenge, he could've used that on the Darren Sproles clear fumble. Yes the referees screwed up, but McCarthy deserves some blame as well
Saints get it together this weekend against San Diego with the whole world watching.
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