Pete Dougherty, Aaron Nagler and Tom Silverstein give their initial impressions from the Packers' 26-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints. USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Every week I’ll share four observations the day after the Green Bay Packers' game. Here they are after the Packers’ 26-17 loss to New Orleans on Sunday:
Brett Hundley didn’t look much like Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, but he has learned at least one skill from the Packers’ starting quarterback. On his first third down of the game, Hundley pulled a Rodgers’ special by getting a free play when he induced Saints linebacker A.J. Klein to jump offside. Hundley took a deep shot to receiver Davante Adams on the play that was broken up. But it was straight out of Rodgers’ book and something Hundley had showed he’d learned in training camp. Several times in team drills in August his cadence got free plays by getting defensive players to jump offside. The next step is hitting a big play on one.
Coordinator Dom Capers’ defense changed personnel a lot Sunday, and that included botching substitutions that left the Packers with only 10 players on the field a couple times. One might even have cost a touchdown. The first time they had the issue, on a third-and-two in the first quarter, the sidelines called time out before the ball was snapped. But the second time, early in the second quarter on a third down from the 12, no one stopped the play. The Packers had two defensive players run off the field to defend a short-yardage play (third-and-one) but only one ran on. Saints running back Mark Ingram then bounced his run outside left end and had a clear path to the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown that tied the game, 7-7.
Running back Aaron Jones had a big game as a ball carrier (131 yards on 17 carries), but he also had a key block as a pass protector that should help keep him on the field on third downs. On Hundley’s 14-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, Jones made a crucial block when he took out linebacker A.J. Klein on a blitz up the middle. Klein had a running start, and if Jones had missed the pickup, or if Klein had bowled him over, Klein would have had a good shot at sacking Hundley or at least preventing the quarterback from getting a clean scramble off left tackle. But Jones took down Klein with an effective cut block, which allowed Hundley a direct line to the left corner of the end zone.
Still trying to figure out why Mike McCarthy opted for a 59-yard field goal with six seconds left in the first half. In the wet, drizzly conditions Sunday, kicker Mason Crosby had almost no chance of making a kick that far. With six seconds left, there was enough time to hit a short pass and get out of bounds or call timeout to set up a little shorter kick. Or, if he didn’t like that option, McCarthy could have gone with a Hail Mary. Instead, he tried the field goal, and Crosby’s kick was probably eight to 10 yards short of clearing the crossbar. The kick also took only five seconds, so New Orleans had one second left to a run a play from its 49. Surprisingly, Saints coach Sean Payton didn’t take a shot at the end zone and instead called a harmless pass in the flat that ended the half.