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
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers finally are getting healthier, especially along the offensive line, but they still find themselves limping into the bye week on the heels of consecutive defeats.
They lost to the Minnesota Vikings in what amounted to a relief appearance for quarterback Brett Hundley.
Then they lost to the New Orleans Saints in what amounted to a massive disappointment after Hundley had a full week to prepare.
“It’s tough,” nose tackle Kenny Clark said. “It just leaves a bad taste in your mouth. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to get over it. We’ve got a big game coming up against the (Detroit) Lions, so that’ll be a big game and we’ve got to just overcome it.”
The Packers enter the bye in second place in the NFC North after failing to keep pace this weekend. The Vikings defeated the Baltimore Ravens 24-16 to move into first place in the division at 5-2. The Chicago Bears defeated the Carolina Panthers 17-3 to climb back into the picture at 3-4.
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The Lions, whom the Packers will host on Monday Night Football after the bye week, are in third place in the division at 3-3.
“I was actually just saying that you never want to leave and take a bye week after a loss, it’s always difficult,” outside linebacker Clay Matthews said. “I know it’s a time to regroup, but you can do that when you win too. It is what it is. We need to get healthy. We need to play better. We’ll do just that. It sucks when you have the lead and unfortunately give it up in the second half and drop two.”
One of the players who needs to get healthy is cornerback Davon House, who told reporters he gutted through Sunday’s game somewhere south of 90 percent. House has been battling a quadriceps injury suffered against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2, though he played well against the Saints and picked off quarterback Drew Brees in the first quarter.
“I think I played really, really good,” House said. “We’ll see when we watch film. But today I wasn’t 100 percent. I’m probably not even 90 percent. So I’m excited to see what I can do when I am 100 percent out there again.”
But nearly everyone echoed the opinions of Clark and Matthews, whose frustration over back-to-back losses was tangible in their answers to nearly every question. The Packers will be stewing until the Lions come to Lambeau Field on Nov. 6.
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“Feeling the heat from the locker room,” safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said, “I think we’re ready to get back out there and play again. I wish we didn’t have this bye week right now. But it’s a chance for a couple of guys who played through some injuries today (to get healthy). I was happy and excited to see a lot of guys come off the injury report. They fought through injuries today, and we just came up short.”
On the mend: Left tackle David Bakhtiari believes the hamstring injury that cost him 4 1/2 games this season won’t be an issue the rest of the way.
Bakhtiari made it through all four quarters Sunday against the Saints. One week earlier, he missed the second half in Minnesota when his hamstring tightened up during halftime. Bakhtiari said the Packers trainers had a much better plan this week keeping his hamstring loose throughout the game.
“We had a plan,” Bakhtiari said. “Pregame, end of quarters, long drives for (the Saints) — just go on the bike. We had a heat pack coming into halftime, doing some things I had to do in (the locker room), which was a lot better. Last week (in Minnesota), we really didn’t know what to expect, because we had never gone as long as we were able to do in practice with my situation.
BOX SCORE: Saints 26, Packers 17
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Bakhtiari now gets one week to rest his stretched hamstring during the Packers bye. By the time the team begins practicing again, Bakhtiari said, he expects it to no longer be an issue.
“We took a big jump this week,” Bakhtiari said, “and the bye week off is going to be very beneficial. So moving forward, I’d like to think that when I come back in a week, that it’s not something I’m going to be thinking about.”
Bakhtiari wasn’t the only Packers player with positive injury news Sunday.
After spending most of the week in concussion protocol, right tackle Bryan Bulaga said he felt normal after playing throughout Sunday’s game. Inside linebacker Jake Ryan missed time with a migraine, something that shouldn’t prevent him from playing in the future. House said he merely had the wind knocked out of him after taking a hard, friendly-fire hit from teammate Kentrell Brice.
Point man: Clark blocked an extra point early in the third quarter to keep the Packers in front, 14-13.
"Just the scouting report and me knowing what to expect,” Clark said. “Just trying to play hard every snap and try to help my team win a game.”
Clark surged forward through the middle of the line to get his left hand on the kick by Wil Lutz of the Saints, firing up the Packers’ sideline.
“They just scored, and I’m trying to tell everybody we’ve got to keep it going, let’s block this kick,” Clark said. “Quinton (Dial) and Dean (Lowry) right there, they got some good push, I got some good push and I was able to get my hand up and block the ball.”
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The uneven score set up a back-and-forth kicking battle between Lutz and Mason Crosby for the majority of the second half.
The Saints nosed ahead, 16-14, after Lutz connected on a 28-yard field goal.Then the Packers surged in front, 17-16, when Crosby made a 46-yard field goal.
Then the Saints nudged ahead for good with 10:26 remaining in the fourth quarter as Lutz drilled a 44-yard kick that gave his team a 19-17 lead.
Fair play: Josh Jones thought he gave Saints punt returner Ted Ginn Jr. ample time to catch the football in the first quarter. Instead, the Packers rookie learned of a quirky NFL rule.
As a gunner, Jones knew he had to allow Ginn the time to catch his punt before hitting him. When Ginn bobbled the football deep in Packers territory, Jones thought the returner became exposed to legal contact. He leveled Ginn, and the Packers recovered.
Jones was called for a fair-catch interference.
“I thought a bobble, once he bobbled it,” Jones said, “but I guess not. I guess you’ve got to give him a chance to catch it.”
The play was an early turning point. With a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, the Packers would've had possession in the red zone. They were in position for at least a field goal, if not another touchdown.
Instead, the Saints got possession. The Packers never went up two scores in Sunday’s game, and eventually gave up a seven-point halftime to lead to lose 26-17.
Recurring event: The way Brice dropped on the field late in the second quarter, it appeared he had suffered the same fate cornerback Quinten Rollins had when he tore his Achilles’ tendon in Minnesota.
Brice couldn’t walk off the field and was taken to the locker room on a cart. However, when the second half started, he was back in the lineup, filling in for inactive starter Morgan Burnett (hamstring).
“I’m dealing with an ankle injury that I’ve been dealing with since Dallas,” Brice said. “I just keep tweaking it and keep getting it taped a little tighter. I’m going to keep pushing and fighting. As long as I can run, I’ll play."