New Orleans, Green Bay a Championship Caliber Match
New Orleans Saints (1-1) vs. Green Bay Packers (2-0)
Sunday, Sept. 27, 7:20 p.m.
TV: NBC WDSU 6
Radio: WWL 105.3 FM/870 AM; Spanish KGLA 105.7 FM/830 AM
Saints look to sack the Pack
The New Orleans Saints return to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for their Week 3 contest against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. The Saints continue to look to improve their offensive output and eliminate critical defensive penalties, which cost the team a surprising loss last week against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Questions about quarterback Drew Brees’ arm strength and accuracy, as well as the team’s penchant for costly penalties are the story of the season. After completing more than 70 percent of his passes the past four seasons, Brees’ completion percentage has slipped to 64.7 percent. His 236.0 yard per game average is shocking low compared to the expectations he has set.
Head coach Sean Payton says his quarterback is not all to blame for the under-achieving offense, arguing the line and receivers need to improve their blocking and route running, respectively, for Brees to be as effective and efficient as possible.
Payton has to be disgusted with the league leading 248 penalty yards the Saints have given up thus far, especially the 150 yards in defensive pass interference that have extended opponents’ drives and allowed them to put points on the scoreboard.
He and the coaching staff will have their hands full creating a game plan to stop Green Bay. The Packers lead the NFL in total offense (1,010 total yards, 593 passing, 417 rushing), have scored 42 points in back-to-back weeks, and have zero turnovers.
After an offseason that saw the Packers opting not to draft a skill player ready to contribute immediately and instead trade-up to draft quarterback Aaron Rogers’ heir apparent, Utah State’s quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, many assumed Green Bay’s offense might be fractured. Instead, Rogers has come out with something to prove, having completed 67 percent of his passes for 604 yards, six touchdowns, and one sack. His top target is three-time Pro Bowl WR Davante Adams, who has caught 17 of the 20 passes thrown to him, for 192 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Aaron Jones leads the NFL with 234 rushing yards. He’s averaging nearly seven yards a carry and has scored three TDs.
The defenses come in evenly matched. The Saints are ranked 8th in total defense, giving up 342.5 yards per game. The Packers are 10th, allowing 344.5. New Orleans has surrendered 28.5 points per game, with the Packers ceding 27.5.
At the Line of Scrimmage
When the Saints have the ball
The Saints offense is in a funk and will not get better until the line gives Brees the time he needs to make plays in the pocket and receivers are where their QB expects them to be. The Saints are averaging 347.5 yards and 29.0 points per game. Running back Alvin Kamara has been the offensive star, but more is needed from wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Tre’Quan Smith; tight ends Jared Cook; and “Swiss Army Knife” Taysom Hill to get the offense to its potential.
The Packers defense has solid linebacker and secondary play, but the Saints may find success against their D Line.
When the Packers have the ball
Rogers is one of the most talented QBs to ever play the game, and it appears he has the weapons to take the Packers deep into the postseason. He’s relying on a running game that’s gained a league-leading 417 yards to open up pass plays down the field.
The Saints haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 45 consecutive games. They rank 8th in total defense and have six quarterback sacks, but opponents are converting 50% on third down. The secondary hasn’t lived up to its preseason billing and is becoming notorious for penalties. The defense needs to get back to its Week 1 form, when it shut down the Buccaneers potent attack. If it doesn’t Rodgers will have a national audience to display his MVP caliber skill.
Goal to Geaux
The keys to a Saints victory rely on eliminating penalties and getting the offense moving.
The Saints D has to continue to bottle up the run, get pressure on Rogers to upset his timing with his receivers, and prevent third down conversions. The offense needs to keep the chains moving and control the clock for no other reason than to keep Rogers on the sideline. If they can be successful, the Saints will be competitive. If not, it will be a long day.
Three & Out – Thoughts on Week 2
- The Raiders dominated the time of possession battle against the Saints, holding the ball for 36:18. They had the ball for 12:36, almost a full quarter of the game, more than New Orleans.
- Defensive captain Cameron Jordan had high expectations entering the season and was expected to dominate third-string offensive tackle the Raiders lined up opposite him. For the season, he has one QB pressure and zero sacks.
- Tre’Quan Smith appears to be on the verge of becoming a consistent weapon in the Saints offense. Against the Raiders, he had five catches for 86 yards – an average of 17.2 yards per reception.
Quotes of the Week
“Are we totally in sync right now? No, we’re not. We’re not even close to what we’re capable of.” – Brees on the Saints’ struggling offense
“Obviously, we’re not going to win when we have that many, we have to get that cleaned up.” – Payton on the number of Saints penalties in 2020.
“They have a very explosive offense. They have a lot of weapons and can get the ball to people in a lot of different ways and so it makes it challenging. We have good guys on our side as well. Come Sunday, our guys have to be better than their guys.” – Saints linebacker Demario Davis on facing the Packers.
Inside the NFC South
W L T %
New Orleans Saints 1 1 0 0.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 1 0 0.5
Atlanta Falcons 0 2 0 0.0
Carolina Panthers 0 2 0 0.0
Atlanta Falcons (0-2) vs. Chicago Bears (2-0)
The Atlanta Falcons are hot garbage right now. They led the Dallas Cowboys 20-0 and blew it, losing 40-39. The game was characterized by an onside kick which saw at least three Falcons watch the ball roll by, only to be recovered by the Cowboys for the game winning drive. QB Matt Ryan is ranked second in the NFL in passing yards (723) and TDs (6).
“Da Bears” are a surprising 2-0 and tied with the Packers for first place in the NFC North. Granted, they’ve played the Lions and the Giants, who have yet to win a game, but they’re getting the job done.
It will be interesting to see how the Falcons play and whether they’ll rise up for head coach Dan Quinn or not. If they don’t, the Bears could pick up another victory against a team without a win.
Carolina Panthers (0-2) at Los Angeles Chargers (1-1)
Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey has a high ankle sprain and will miss three to six games. That could spell doom for the first half of Carolina’s season – if not longer. Their offense will now depend on QB Teddy Bridgewater to keep it going. Their defense looks like they’re still developing as a unit.
Chargers fans got to see a glimpse of the future when rookie QB Justin Herbert, the sixth overall draft pick, was called on to start after starting QB Tyrod Taylor’s lung was punctured during a pregame pain-killer injection. Herbert passed for 311 yards, had a passing and rushing TD, and took Kansas City to overtime before Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker drilled a 58-yard game winning field goal to seal a 23-20 win.
It’s been one game, but Herbert was phenomenal. Playing the injured Panthers could be advantageous to his development.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) at Denver Broncos (0-2)
Tom Brady returned to form in the Buccaneers 31-17 win over Carolina last week. With Pro Bowl receiver Chris Godwin out, Mike Evans stepped up with seven receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown. Leonard Fournette added 103 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.
Denver has eight players on IR, including star linebacker Von Miller, and starting quarterback Drew Lock has an injured shoulder that will sideline him for three to five weeks.
Expect the Buccaneers to open fire while Denver’s horses are out.
The Extra Point: Perspective & Faith
Tom Benson used to stress that you can’t get too high with the wins or too low with the losses. The Saints pummeled the NFL’s pirates through the first five quarters of the NFL season. Unfortunately, their last three quarters left them with a 1-1 record and numerous questions about this team’s ability.
The Saints’ passing game has been focused on receiver Michael Thomas, who holds the NFL record for the most receptions by a player through his first four seasons (470) and in a single season (149). With him out with a high ankle sprain, the Saints have had to adjust. It has taken time for newcomer Emmanuel Sanders to get 100% comfortable in the offense. People are questioning if Brees, 41, has been sacked by Father Time.
At the same time, our defenders can’t seem to keep their hands off of opponents’ receivers. Giving up free yards leads to giving up free points.
Payton says changes are needed. Expect them to come, but it may take some patience.
There’s no doubt that the Saints face a tough game this Sunday Night. It may not go the way the Who Dat? Nation would like it to and may be coupled by Tampa sliding into first place in the NFC South.
But it’s not time to panic.
Have some faith.
“”I’m confident with the guys we have and the system we have that we’re going to get back on track,” Brees said on Wednesday. “I think we have always been one of the best teams in the league, probably in history, at the precision of the passing game. And I think we are on our way to being back there very soon.”
The NFL season is only two weeks old. There are 14 games to go. That’s plenty of time for this team to get on the same page, come back from injury, and get back on track to their Super Bowl goal.