The Green Bay Packers head home to Lambeau for their first home matchup of the season against the New Orleans Saints. The Packers, coming off of a devastating loss last week allowing 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, look to bounce back in Jordan Love’s first start at Lambeau Field.
Bouncing back against a tough Saints defense is difficult enough, but the Packers will have to do it without multiple key players. Aaron Jones, Christian Watson, David Bahktiari, Elgton Jenkins, and Jaire Alexander, all out for this matchup.
New Orleans is missing some players as well. Alvin Kamara and Jamaal Williams are both out for this game, a huge blow to the Saints running game.
The inexperienced Packer offense faces a fierce Saints defense, without four of their starters. Will they overcome this difficult hurdle and win their 11th straight home opener?
Kenny Clark opened the game strong with a sack on the opening drive, forcing an early three-and-out. Back-to-back offensive penalties pushed the offense back to a 1st-and-25. Love and the offense trimmed it down to a 4th-and-two. On fourth down, LaFleur dialed up some trickery.
A swing pass out to running back Emmanuel Wilson, who then lateralled it back to Love. The lateral was low and Love struggled to corral the pass initially. Love then slipped while attempting to hit an open Dontayvion Wicks, causing him to overthrow Wicks and resulting in a turnover on downs. An excellent play call, but terrible execution.
Now with the momentum, and with a little help from a Clark personal foul penalty, the Saints offense drove down the field, taking an early 7-0 lead on a Jimmy Graham touchdown pass from Derek Carr. De’Vondre Campbell left the game after this drive with an ankle injury and did not return.
The Packers next offensive started strong. Romeo Doubs and AJ Dillon each earned 13+ yard gains. Any momentum the drive had was hurt after Love missed a wide open Luke Musgrave deep down the middle. A couple plays later, a false start penalty forced a long third down the Packers were unable to convert, forcing their first punt of the game.
Luckily for the struggling offense, the defense continued to show up. Rashan Gary recorded his first sack of the day, getting to Carr on a 3rd-and-nine to force another punt.
In what was becoming the theme of the game, a solid offensive drive lost all momentum on a penalty, this time a holding call. Unable to overcome a 2nd-and-15, the Packers punted again, and this time it cost them. Saints punt returner Rashid Shaheed returned the punt 70 yards for a score, extending the Saints’ lead 14-0.
Now down two scores, the offense desperately needed to get back into the game. Love started to piece together a great drive, finding Musgrave and Wicks for eight-yard and 18-yard completions respectively. LaFleur even went deep into his bag of tricks with an 11-yard jet sweep by slot corner and kick returner Keisean Nixon.
The offense drove into Saints territory, reaching their 27-yard line, putting them in prime position to at least get on the scoreboard with a field goal. On a third-and-eight; however, Love tried rolling out to escape a blitzing Alontae Taylor, but was unsuccessful. Love took a huge 14-yard sack, pushing the Packers out of field goal range, and forcing them to punt.
With one drive left before the half, the Packers defense bent, but refused to break. The Saints drove down to the Packers goal line, but the defense held, and forced the Saints to settle for a 25-yard field goal. The field goal put the Saints up 17-0 at halftime, the first time the Packers were shut out in the first half since 2018, the home opener against the Chicago Bears.
The third quarter was more of the same for the Packers. Offensively, penalties continued to kill drives and forcing them to settle for punts. Love tossed his first interception of the game on what was essentially an arm punt as a deep shot to Romeo Doubs got stolen by Lonnie Johnson Jr.
Defensively, despite being without Alexander, Campbell, and now rookie Carrington Valentine, they dominated the Saints offense. Gary continued to be a menace in the Saints backfield, sacking Carr a second time, and generating pressure nearly every down. Midway through the third, Carr got hurt and was replaced by Jameis Winston.
With under seven minutes left in the third quarter, and still down 17-0, the offense finally started cooking. Love began dissecting the Saints defense, spreading the ball around to Musgrave, Doubs, and back-up running back Patrick Taylor. When the fourth quarter began, Love had the Packers set up with a fourth-and-two from the Saints’ 13-yard line. The Packers went for it, but a miscommunication between Love and Taylor resulted in Love throwing an incomplete pass, turning the ball over on downs.
Despite another offensive drive without any points, the momentum had swung in their favor. The loss of Carr caught up to the Saints, and the defense continued to handle their offense with ease.
After a quick three-and-out, the Packers offense got the ball back and finally put points up on the board with a seven-play, 46-yard drive ending in a 38-yard Anders Carlson field goal. Once again the defense held, with yet another Rashan Gary sack helping force a fourth-straight Saints punt.
With some help from two Saints’ defensive pass interference calls, the Packers offense quickly found themselves in the Saints redzone. After Love found Jayden Reed to get them down to the Saints two-yard line, Love faked the handoff and took it himself to get his first rushing touchdown of his career, and the Packers’ first touchdown of the day.
Down by eight, the Packers elected to go for the two-point conversion, and Love found Samori Toure in the endzone to cut the lead down to six. Now with just under seven minutes to play, the Packers found themselves down 17-11.
A sixth-straight Saints punt on another quick three-and-out and the Packers offense was in position to take the lead late in the fourth. Starting from their own 20, Love took over, hitting nearly every pass and scrambling for a big gain, driving the offense down to the Saints redzone. After the first fade route attempt to Doubs was broken up, Love tried it again and this time Doubs came down with the game-tying touchdown. Carlson drilled the go-ahead extra point, and the Packers took the lead 18-17 with just under three minutes to play.
The excitement of the Packers comeback looked to be in danger though as the defense began to bend again. Winston fed Chris Olave the ball and rode his success down to the Packers’ 28-yard line. The defense forced a fourth down, but well within field goal range. With 1:10 left in the fourth, the Saints had an opportunity to retake the lead, and force Love to piece together another drive.
No second go-ahead would be necessary for Love; however, as Blake Groupe’s 48-yard go-ahead field goal attempt sailed wide right, giving the ball back to the Packers with their lead intact. Love knelt out the game on the ensuing drive, capping off an incredible comeback to earn the Packer’s their second win of the season.
Players of the Game
- Rashan Gary: Rashan Gary has had a fantastic start to this season. Coming off of an ACL tear last season, Gary has been on a snap count to ease him back into playing again. Despite his limited playing time, Gary has still been an absolute DAWG on the field. Against the Saints, Gary had 20 total pass rushing snaps. On these 20 snaps, Gary recorded five total pressures, three sacks, and one QB hit. Gary generated pressure at an insane 25% rate and was without a doubt a big reason the Packers were able to mount a comeback.
- Honorable Mention: Jordan Love: Jordan Love played a fantastic fourth quarter, mounting a 17-point comeback, tying the franchise record. Love put the team on his back in the final quarter, and proved his ability to win even when the odds are stacked up against him. Despite the impressive fourth quarter, the rest of the game was lackluster for the young QB. Love posted a respectable 259 yard and one touchdown passing performance, adding another 39 yards and touchdown on the ground; however Love completed only 50% of his passes, tossed an interception, had passer rating of 66.4 and a QBR of 61.1. Love played fantastic for the last 20 minutes of game time, but the other 40 minutes was merely okay. Lots of room to improve, but to give credit where credit is due, Love won this game.
- De’Vondre Campbell left the game midway through the first quarter with an ankle injury. He did not return.
- Carrington Valentine left the game just before halftime. He did not return.
A statement win for the Packers cannot be ignored. Despite being without five of their top players, and losing another one early on in the game, the Packers put up a fight and came out on top against a good Saints team.
Some concerns to note. Across the last two games, the Packers allowed 30 unanswered points. The offense failed to find the endzone, or even put up points, across four quarters, dating back to the fourth quarter against Atlanta last week. The offense did finally start clicking late in the game, but this cannot be the formula for the rest of the year.
When the Packers get back Jones, Watson, and Bakhtiari, the offense will be better, there is no doubt about that. However the Packers cannot expect to be able to come back down 17 points every week. Offensively, they have to be better not only at executing, but also in limiting penalties.
The Packers had 11 penalties for 90 yards. Penalties killed most of the Packers’ drives throughout the game, and teams are going to start to capitalize on these shortcomings as the season goes on. Something has to change.
Defensively, they bounced back from last week. Without two of their top players in Campbell and Alexander, the defense only allowed 10 points the whole game. The front-seven was fantastic, led by a three-sack performance by Gary. The Packers need to pay Gary by any means necessary.
The Packers had won their last 11 home openers. In Love’s first home start, he matched the franchise record for largest fourth quarter comeback. He has shown lots of potential thus far this season and the offense is going to be electric when fully healthy. The Packers stay home on a short week to face the Detroit Lions on Thursday Night Football, the Packers’ first primetime game of the season.