Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints: Grades
Summary: Quarterback [intlink id="25" type="category"]Aaron Rodgers[/intlink] completed 27-of-35 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns and the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers made a goal-line stand on the final play of the game to beat the [intlink id="234" type="category"]New Orleans Saints[/intlink] 42-34.
Game Balls: Rodgers, receiver [intlink id="138" type="category"]Greg Jennings[/intlink] (2 receptions, 89 yards, 1 TD), receiver/returner [intlink id="1616" type="category"]Randall Cobb[/intlink] (2 receptions, 35 yards, 1 TD, 108-yard kickoff return TD), linebacker [intlink id="492" type="category"]Desmond Bishop[/intlink] (12 tackles), safety [intlink id="1034" type="category"]Morgan Burnett[/intlink] (14 tackles)
Injury Report: cornerback [intlink id="82" type="category"]Tramon Williams[/intlink] (shoulder bruise)
Passing Offense: A-
With a fast start in the first quarter, Rodgers completed 14-of-15 passes for 188 yards, three touchdowns, and 158.3 passer rating. He cooled off in the second half, but finished 312 yards and 132.1 passer rating. Nine receivers caught passes, led by Jennings seven catches for 89 yards. [intlink id="22" type="category"]Jordy Nelson[/intlink] added six catches for 77 yards and [intlink id="209" type="category"]Jermichael Finley[/intlink] had three for 53 yards. Overall, the improved personnel on the offensive line, with a more experienced [intlink id="925" type="category"]Bryan Bulaga[/intlink] and new left guard [intlink id="583" type="category"]T.J. Lang[/intlink], controlled the Saints pass rush, protecting Rodgers, who was sacked only twice. The first sack came on a seven-man blitz when there were only six blockers. The second sack came after running back [intlink id="1038" type="category"]James Starks[/intlink] failed to pick up a blitzer.
Rushing Offense: B
Although no one had a great day, the running game looked solid, rushing 27 times for 103 yards, a 3.8 yard per carry average. [intlink id="64" type="category"]Ryan Grant[/intlink] started the game and stayed in early when the Packers were running their the no-huddle offense. For the game, he had nine rushes for 40 yards. Starks had a bigger impact, leading the rushing attack with 12 rushes for 57 yards and huge touchdown run. The difference between Starks and Grant is Starks delivers more bruising runs and keeps going after initial contact.
Passing Defense: D+
The tackling, coverage, and coordination failed to meet the standards for what should be an elite unit. Linebacker [intlink id="80" type="category"]A.J. Hawk[/intlink] and cornerback [intlink id="1061" type="category"]Sam Shields[/intlink] looked awful in coverage, allowing big completions. Drew Brees picked apart the Packers secondary completing 49 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns. Devery Henderson had six catches for 100 yards and one touchdown and Marques Colston had six catches for 81 yards. Robert Meachem added five catches for 70 yards and one touchdown and running back Darren Sproles had seven catches for 75 yards.
Although the Packers defense got three sacks, the lack of a consistent pass rush allowed Brees to pick apart the Packers secondary. While he struggled to shed blockers and had issues in coverage, outside linebacker [intlink id="1335" type="category"]Erik Walden[/intlink] made several big plays, including a sack. Safety [intlink id="162" type="category"]Nick Collins[/intlink] and cornerback [intlink id="143" type="category"]Charles Woodson[/intlink] had a mediocre performances by their standards and Woodson was lucky he didn’t get thrown out for throwing a punch.
Rushing Defense: B+
The Packers limited the Saints rushing to only 81 yards on the ground. Running back Mark Ingram had 13 carries for 40 yards, but Pierre Thomas had 31 yards and averaged a solid 6.2 yards per rush, highlighted by a big 21-yard run in the third quarter. The run defense came up big on the biggest play of the game, though, stopping Ingram at the goal line on the final play of the game. The Packers featured a goal-line package with four defensive linemen, four linebackers, and three defensive backs on the play. Defensive end Jarius Wynn, who’s improved his play from last season, had several big plays against the run.
Special Teams: C+
Cobb had a great debut with his 108-yard kickoff return. He averaged 65.7 yards on two returns. However, Shawn Slocum’s unit was shaky overall, allowing several big returns, including a punt-return touchdown by Sproles. The gap control and tackling were inadequate. In addition to his 72-yard touchdown, Sproles also had a 57-yard kickoff return. Packers kicker [intlink id="152" type="category"]Mason Crosby[/intlink] had touchbacks on just four of seven kickoffs. Punter [intlink id="791" type="category"]Tim Masthay[/intlink] punted four times with a 42.5 gross average and an awful 14.5 net average.
Mike McCarthy did a good job preparing the team for the season opener. Using the no-huddle offense, the offensive game plan balanced the passing and running attack, notching 10 rushing first downs and 14 passing first downs. Unfortunately, the defense failed to live up to expectations with shoddy performances from key personnel. Slocum’s special teams looked awful in coverage.
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