GREEN BAY, Wis. – You have to look long and hard to find any semblance of a positive from the Green Bay Packers’ season-opening debacle against the New Orleans Saints.
The Packers were outclassed in every facet of the embarrassing 38-3 loss. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had one of the worst games of his career. The running game went nowhere at all before being totally ignored. And the new defense directed by Joe Barry made Jameis Wintson look like an All-Pro.
Fortunately, if you’re Matt LaFleur, Rodgers or one of the other legion of leaders on the team, you don’t have to look hard to find a supposed Super Bowl contender get utterly and completely embarrassed.
In Week 9 of last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost at home to the Saints by, remarkably enough, a score of 38-3. In Week 10 of the 2018 season, the New England Patriots lost 34-10 at the Tennessee Titans. The Buccaneers and Patriots overcame those humbling defeats to win the Super Bowl.
A total of 21 teams reached the Super Bowl after losing a game by 27-plus points, including 10 teams that lost a game by 30. One of those was the 2003 Patriots, who lost 31-0 at Buffalo in Week 1 but finished the season with 15 consecutive wins and a Lombardi Trophy.
If history is going to repeat, the Packers need to bounce back ASAP. LaFleur entered the season with a career regular-season record of 26-6. He’s never dropped back-to-back games. Next Monday, he’ll try to keep that impressive accomplishment intact during the home opener against the Detroit Lions.
“I just said we’ll find out what we’re all about,” LaFleur said of his message to his players. “We talk about in the face of adversity staying together and not flinching. That’s exactly what we have to do, and we have to get back to work. This isn’t going to magically repair itself. The only way that I believe that you bounce back from any defeat, any setback, whether it’s in football or in life, is you put in the work and so that’s what we’ve got to do.”
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Remarkably, Rodgers said the team entered the game feeling a bit too good about itself. Last season, Green Bay led the NFL in scoring. With one game remaining in Week 1, no team has scored fewer points than Green Bay. Last season, Rodgers won his third MVP. On Sunday, the Saints’ powerful defense made Rodgers look like just another quarterback.
“We’re coming off a couple NFC Championship Games and, obviously feeling good about the unit that we have on offense,” Rodgers said. “So, this is a good kick in the you-know-where. Hopefully, get us going in the right direction going back home and playing a division opponent next week.”
Safety Adrian Amos was part of a defense that watched Winston throw five touchdown passes in just 20 attempts.
“We can’t let one game beat us twice,” he said. “We have to go out there and we have to make the corrections early in the week and we have to move on to the next game. Figure out what we did today that was wrong, how we started slow, and things like that. We’ve just got to regroup, rebound and get on to the next one.”
The Saints rushed for 171 yards, which helped nullify whatever blitz packages Barry wanted to unleash on Winston. New Orleans scored on six of its first seven possessions. It converted 5-of-10 on third down and both of its fourth-down tries.
For the Packers, it was their most points allowed in a Week 1 game since a 41-38 victory over Houston in the 1983 opener and tied for the fourth-worst showing in franchise history.
On the bright side, after each of the team's losses last season, it rebounded to win by 15, 17 and 16 points.
“It’s only one game,” defensive tackle Kenny Clark said. “We’ve got 16 other games to prepare for, so, this game, took an ‘L.’ This game definitely humbled us and it was a tough loss. And like always, we’re going to go back to the drawing board. Whether we win or we lose, Coach talks about taking it one game at a time all the time, and that’s what we’ve got to do. Got to take it one game at a time. We don’t want to start 0-2, so we’ve got our hands full with the Lions.”