GREEN BAY, Wis. – If New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton were told these numbers before kickoff, he might have started crafting his postgame victory speech.
Davante Adams: 0 yards (inactive).
Aaron Jones: 86 total yards.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling: One catch, 5 yards.
The Green Bay Packers' three most explosive playmakers combined for 91 yards.
And yet, it didn’t matter. It didn’t get close to mattering. For the third consecutive week, Aaron Rodgers was magnificent. Allen Lazard provided the explosive plays. And the tight ends were devastating. Added together, the Packers found new faces and new ways to produce the same results: a lot of points and another victory.
The Packers beat the Saints 37-30 on Sunday night. With a 3-0 record, they cemented their status as one of the best teams in the NFL through September. With a league-leading 122 points, they’ve scored the sixth-most points in the NFL since at least 1940.
“We’ve had some good offenses over the years … and put up some amazing numbers, but this offense is just so different,” Rodgers said. “Other than Davante, who obviously didn’t play tonight, I don’t think many teams look at us and think we have a number of stars that they’re really worried about. Obviously, Aaron Jones is a such a talented guy and you’ve try and take him away, but you never know really whose day it’s going to be. You really don’t.”
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The Saints’ game plan looked good on paper. Without Adams, the Saints put the defensive bull’s-eye on Jones. Other than runs of 19 and 13 yards, one of the league’s premier run defenses had its way against the NFL’s top-ranked running game. Then, the plan was to take away Valdes-Scantling, who showed his instant-strike ability with three catches of 39-plus yards the first two games. The Saints practically pitched a shutout against him.
What the Saints couldn’t account for was the sublime game plan and play-calling of LaFleur. With New Orleans so focused on Jones, LaFleur dialed up one bootleg after another, after another to the tight ends. The Saints never got close to stopping it. Even with the game on the line with a second-and-goal at the 1, Rodgers flashed a handoff to Jones, pulled the ball back, took a couple steps to the right and flicked an easy touchdown pass to Robert Tonyan to clinch the victory.
The Packers couldn’t beat a powerful team like the Saints with a bunch of bootlegs, though. Some big plays were required. It was Lazard who provided them. Last season, he had two catches of greater than 35 yards. He matched that against the Saints with a 48-yard gain early in the second quarter and a 72-yard grab on the third play of the third quarter after he dropped a pass on second down. Both plays set up touchdowns.
“The 72-yarder, it was the first series out of halftime,” Lazard said. “I told Aaron Jones during halftime, I was like, ‘Look, I’m going to need another 75-, 80-yard touchdown – whatever it was last week – to start off the second half.”
Green Bay gained merely 369 yards – a mere pittance after averaging just more than 500 the first two weeks – but scored four touchdowns on five trips to the red zone. For the third game in a row, it didn’t turn over the football. Rodgers was 21-of-32 passing for 283 yards and three touchdowns. His 124.9 passer rating gave him three consecutive games of at least 107 for the first time since the final four games of his 2016 running of the table.
For the first time in the team’s almost 100-year history in the NFL, the Packers have scored 37-plus points in three consecutive games. It didn’t happen in 2011, when the Packers scored the third-most points in NFL history. Nor did it happen in any of their championship seasons.
Last year through three games, while the Packers were 3-0, they had scored 58 points. This team has more than doubled that production.
Up next is a Monday night game against Atlanta. The Falcons have the worst defense in the NFL with 36.0 points allowed per game.
“I think a big reason why we’ve been able to generate points is, No. 1, we do a great job of taking care of the football,” LaFleur said. “Our quarterback is as good as anybody ever at just making great decisions, throwing with great accuracy and timing. I think our offensive line has done a great job for us not only in the run game but in the pass game, as well. He’s been pretty clean. The big emphasis going into this season was our third-down conversions, and we’ve been so much better on third down. And, again, that’s a credit to our guys. There’s certain times where we jump the ball and we put kind of the play-calling in our quarterback’s hands and he gets us into the right looks. So, that’s a credit to all our guys.”