Matt LaFleur couldn’t think of any positives. After a night’s sleep, neither can we.
Lethargic, certainly, but lost might be the most accurate word to describe Green Bay in its embarrassing 38-3 season-opening defeat against New Orleans in the Jacksonville heat on Sunday.
Hopefully it’s merely an outlier, an unforeseen a** whipping in an otherwise memorable campaign.
It’s got to be, right?
The Packers offense netted 229 total yards. The Saints seamlessly executed six picturesque scoring drives. Aaron Rodgers completed 15 passes. Jameis Winston passed for five touchdowns.
We’re joking, right? We’re not.
A dysfunctional offseason spearheaded by Rodgers culminated in a bizarre, and even more dysfunctional, offensive display Sunday. Green Bay gained 43 yards on the ground -- Aaron Jones carried five times for nine yards -- failed to reach the end zone and averaged 4.4 yards per play.
The dysfunction incredulously spread to Joe Barry’s defense. New Orleans possessed the football for 21:51 in the first half. Sean Payton put on a masterclass in play calling and toyed with Barry’s personnel all game long. Winston performed like a potential MVP candidate; he performed so well that memories of his final career-transforming season in Tampa Bay are beginning to fade. He looked like Payton’s protégé, a changed man since reaching the infamous 30-interception mark in 2019, and schooled the Pack at his teacher’s behest with a cast of unheralded weapons -- aside from Alvin Kamara -- that probably wouldn’t have cracked Green Bay’s 53-man roster. That’s tough. But that’s the truth.
Be thankful, as we are, it’s only Week 1. The Packers have plenty of time to sort out their deficiencies.
Here’s an honest, however brutal recap of Green Bay’s crude afternoon:
PLAYER OF THE GAME
We’re not in the business of handing out participation trophies. Sunday’s performance was putrid.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME
See above. We’re not going to sugarcoat anything.
All that said -- we know, it’s a lot -- we still want to give some kudos to those who deserve it.
Second-year quarterback Jordan Love completed his first NFL pass to rookie wide receiver Amari Rodgers for a 19-yard gain (maybe a glimpse of the future?). Love finished 5 of 7 with 68 passing yards. Another rookie, running back Kylin Hill, delivered Green Bay’s long rush of the afternoon -- eight yards. 🥴
Oh so badly, we want to say the defining moment of Sunday’s game was a Darnell Savage interception that was negated by an appalling roughing-the-passer call. Why? Well, because then we could reason the Packers were cheated out of a potential turnaround; because then we wouldn’t be forced to admit that New Orleans beat the brakes off Green Bay from start to finish. The Za’Darius Smith hit on Winston was textbook. The game announcers said as much and rules analyst wizard Dean Blandino concurred. Except, by then, the botched penalty and nullified takeaway meant next to nothing in the game’s big picture. The Saints held a lead that felt insurmountable with the way the Packers were performing, offensively.
The actual kairos of Sunday’s 35-point defeat came on the first Packers possession of the second half. Remember, Green Bay moved furiously before halftime to let Mason Crosby connect from 39 yards out -- a two touchdown deficit at the break hardly felt like armageddon. The Pack looked to be in good shape in the third quarter as they inched farther into Saints territory. Five Rodgers completions plus two defensive pass interferences set Green Bay up inside New Orleans’ 10-yard line. Then pressure on 2nd-and-7 forced Rodgers to make an egregious error. Stepping up to avoid punishment from all 287 pounds of Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Rodgers awkwardly threw behind Davante Adams, running a shallow cross to the left side of the field. The pass was picked by rookie corner Paulson Adebo.
Forget that New Orleans failed to capitalize on such a rare moment -- Rodgers was intercepted just five times on 526 attempts a season ago. Forget that Rodgers made a second mistake on Green Bay’s ensuing drive, an overthrown pass that did result in a Saints offensive touchdown. The first turnover was the deadliest because it drained the life from a team determined to redeem itself after two lousy quarters.
1 – Green Bay’s number of third-down conversions. Oof x1000. Now brace yourself: the Packers didn’t even move the sticks on third down with Rodgers behind center -- Love’s first NFL completion (the 19 yarder to Amari mentioned above) was the group’s lone conversion Sunday. But hey, the offense accounted for 13 other first downs AND was 2-for-3 on fourth downs. *Wahoo!
*major sarcasm … the most sarcasm imaginable
THEY SAID IT
“It’s very humbling to say the least.” -- Head Coach Matt LaFleur
“You’re feeling good getting three points to make it a two possession game. Then you start out the second half and you move the ball and you get down there and we have the turnover. You can’t do that. Then it just snowballs.” -- LaFleur
“One game. We got 16 to go.” -- QB Aaron Rodgers
“The first one was obviously the play of the game that kind of swung things big time. … Wish I would have thrown that one away.” -- Rodgers lamenting his two interceptions
“This is a good kick in the you know where.” -- Rodgers
Primetime. Monday night. Green Bay takes on Detroit at home in its first divisional clash of 2021. It’ll be a battle between teams with wildly different expectations entering the season and even wilder Week 1 outcomes. The Lions at one point trailed San Francisco 38-10 on Sunday. They rallied off three second-half touchdown drives, two successful two-point conversion attempts, a recovered onside kick and a forced fumble with 0:58 left that nearly led to a completed comeback. The Pack were butchered by Payton, Winston and the displaced Saints. In all seriousness, Monday can’t get here fast enough.