Packers Insider: Passing game steps up in Davante Adams' absence
The Green Bay Packers outlasted the New Orleans Saints 37-30 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to improve to 3-0 on the year. The loss was the second straight for the Saints (1-2).
The Packers’ offense continued to roll along with 370 total yards, though it was more reliant on the passing game than the first three weeks, even without star wide receiver Davante Adams. Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and the Packers were held to just 99 rushing yards, so Aaron Rodgers guided the offense to 37 points largely through the air and especially through deep shots.
The Saints, conversely, just decided to swing the ball around on short throws to Alvin Kamara — and also hand it to Kamara — which was enough as he ran around and through the Packers' defense to single-handedly keep his team in the game with 197 yards of total offense.
But when it came to winning time, the Packers made the winning plays.
- Za’Darius Smith forced and recovered a fumble on a Taysom Hill run/option. Mason Crosby then drilled a 49-yard field goal for the lead.
- Chandon Sullivan then made one of the very few solo tackles on Kamara to force a punt.
- Rodgers then directed a game-clinching 64-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Jones.
The defense continues to have problems that are being exploited, but at this juncture they also seem to make the one or two opportune stops to then let the offense just push the gas pedal enough to outlast the opponent.
Deep thoughts: The Saints came into the game having not punctured the end zone off deep plays — their average touchdown play covers less than six yards. Sunday night, the Packers allowed an 11-yard touchdown throw but it was just a dump off from Drew Brees to Kamara out of the backfield, who broke an Adrian Amos tackle to get into the end zone. Brees also hit Emmanuel Sanders for a 10-yard touchdown, but the Saints just never got anything going downfield. According to NFL Next Gen stats, Brees never attempted a pass beyond 20 yards.
Big nickel: In order to keep the run defense as stout as it can be, Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has elected to keep three defensive linemen on the field while swapping out an inside linebacker for a corner in his nickel alignments. Sunday the Saints just ran it at the Packers' front all night, accumulating 122 total yards on the ground at a healthy 6.1 yards per rush.
Jamaal Williams surging: Jones is clearly the Packers’ No. 1 running back but his longtime locker neighbor continued to draw rave reviews from Rodgers and coach Matt LaFleur for his production. Williams got his usual workload in that he spelled Jones occasionally but finished with just 17 yards of total offense.
Pick of the litter: The Saints hoped to get pass rusher Marcus Davenport on the field for the first time in 2020 Sunday night, but he was inactive with an elbow injury. If you recall, the Saints traded with the Packers to move up from No. 27 to No. 14 in the 2018 draft to pick Davenport, a transaction that included a 2019 first-rounder. The Packers then moved back up to get Jaire Alexander four picks after Davenport and the next year they picked Darnell Savage Jr. with the extra pick.
Dogged by drops: Rodgers completed 67.6% of his passes the first two weeks despite more than a handful of drops from his receivers in those games. Those miscues didn’t hurt them against Minnesota and Detroit. Allen Lazard had one early in the third quarter, but Rodgers went back to him for a 72-yard completion on the next play.
Allen Lazard, WR
With Adams sidelined by a hamstring injury, which Packers receiver would take the spotlight? It proved to be the third-year wideout from Iowa State, who caught 6 balls for 146 yards along with a touchdown. He also set up scores with two long receptions.
See, what had happened was…
With the seconds ticking away in the third quarter and the Packers up 27-20, Brees dumped off a horizontal throw to Kamara. Then Will Redmond missed a backfield tackle. Then Ty Summers missed a tackle. Then Adrian Amos and Alexander were impeded by hustling Saints center Erik McCoy, which then set up another missed tackle by Savage. The end result was a 52-yard catch-and-run touchdown for Kamara.
Losses by the Saints on Sunday night football, their first in 11 games with Sean Payton and Brees in the prime-time slot.
The date of the last Packers' win in the Superdome, a 35-21 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI.
Fumbles forced by the Packers, one of which they recovered.
Straight games the Saints have now gone without allowing a 100-yard rusher, the longest active streak in the NFL.
Points through three games by the Packers, a team record.
Next Gen stat of the day
Seconds it took Saints linebacker Demario Davis to sack Rodgers in the first quarter. It was only the second sack of Rodgers on the season, and Davis came unblocked on a blitz.
Did you notice?
On Kingsley Keke's six-yard sack of Brees in the second quarter, outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith lined up with his hand on the ground between the center and right guard while Rashan Gary stood up over the left side of the Saints' offensive line. Smith attracted a double team, and so did Gary as he crashed inside. Keke stunted around Gary for a free run at Brees and his first career sack and forced fumble.
Play of the game
After the Packers failed to convert a fourth-and-1 from their own 48 early in the fourth quarter, outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith hit New Orleans' Taysom Hill as he tried to tuck the ball on a run-pass option and the ball popped out. Smith was then able to recover it at the Packers' 43-yard line with the score tied 27-27. The turnover led to the Packers taking a 30-27 lead.