Game Balls from the Saints 38-3 Thrashing of the Packers

Against several obstacles, New Orleans got their 2021 season off to an eye-popping start by pounding the Green Bay Packers.
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The New Orleans Saints got their 2021 season off to a resounding start with a 38-3 rout of the Green Bay Packers.

In a ‘‘home'' game that was moved to Jacksonville because of Hurricane Ida, the Saints dominated play from the opening kickoff and handed Packers QB Aaron Rodgers the most lopsided loss in his career.

New Orleans took the opening kickoff 50 yards in seven plays, ending in a field goal for an early lead. After that the Saints defense took control, while the offense simply mauled Green Bay in the trenches.

The Saints held the Packers to only 229 total yards, 43 yards rushing, and a meager 1 for 10 on third down conversions. They forced three turnovers and recorded two sacks, seven QB hits, and generated constant pressure on Aaron Rodgers all afternoon.

New Orleans took command of the game with one touchdown drive of 15 plays for 76 yards and another for 16 plays and 80 yards in the first half. The Saints had 322 total yards, including 171 on the ground, and were 7 of 12 in third and fourth down opportunities.

There were plenty of standout performances in this pounding of a supposed NFC contender. Let’s start with a player that all national eyes were on entering the game.

JAMEIS WINSTON, QUARTERBACK

New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) launches an early first quarter pass against the Green Bay Packers. Bob Self/Florida Times-Union via Imagn Content Services, LLC

New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) launches an early first quarter pass against the Green Bay Packers. Bob Self/Florida Times-Union via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Winston the first quarterback other than Drew Brees to start a season opener since 2005.

His task was a monumental one, stepping in for the legendary Brees, who retired this offseason. It was also Winston's first extensive game action since the 2019 regular season finale with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Not known for his running ability, Winston made an impact with his legs on the opening drive, scrambling for 2 first downs. He was efficient as a passer, completing 14 of his 20 attempts for 148 yards and most importantly, no major mistakes.

Winston threw five touchdown passes, a feat only Brees, Aaron Brooks, and Billy Kilmer accomplished in franchise history.  Winston flashed the passing talent that made him the first overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. He masterfully escaped pressure and patiently went through his reads.

Winston's three second half touchdowns were things of beauty. Without All-Pro WR Michael Thomas, he found WR Deonte Harris, TE Juwan Johnson, and WR Chris Hogan on strikes that put the game away.

CESAR RUIZ/CALVIN THROCKMORTON, OFFENSIVE LINE

New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) throws from the pocket against the Green Bay Packers. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) throws from the pocket against the Green Bay Packers. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Star C Erik McCoy left the game on the first series with an injury. Starting RG Ruiz slid into the middle, while Throckmorton stepped into Ruiz' spot.

The entire New Orleans line dominated Green Bay. Winston was not sacked and was hit just twice. Tackles Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead silenced the Packers talented edge rush, while LG Andrus Peat excelled on the inside.

The Saints averaged 4.8 yards per rushing attempt, with Alvin Kamara and Tony Jones combining for 133 yards on the ground. Much of that success came in the middle or right side, where Ruiz and Throckmorton consistently won their matchups.

Ruiz, a 2020 first-round pick, looks like a potential star after a terrific training camp. The line’s cohesion remained strong even after Ruiz switched positions and Throckmorton entered the lineup.

TANOH KPASSAGNON, DEFENSIVE END

Saints defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon (90) causes a fourth quarter fumble by Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love (10). © Bob Self/Florida Times-Union via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Saints defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon (90) causes a fourth quarter fumble by Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love (10). © Bob Self/Florida Times-Union via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Just like the offensive side of the ball, the New Orleans defense had control of the trenches throughout the game. Green Bay averaged less than three yards per rush, while Rodgers was under constant duress.

Defensive ends Marcus Davenport and Cameron Jordan both had standout performances. Davenport, in particular, was a disruptive force with a sack, 2 tackles for loss, and 2 QB pressures. The Saints defensive tackles also got nice push in the middle.

Kpassagnon, a free-agent pickup from Kansas City, gave the team several meaningful snaps with rookie DE Payton Turner out of the lineup.

He consistently blew up Green Bay blocking, pressuring the quarterback several times and coming up with a fourth quarter strip-sack to keep the Packers out of the end zone.

Davenport may miss significant time because of a pectoral injury suffered yesterday. A disappointing setback for a player who was coming on strong.

Kpassagnon has the potential to give the team continued disruption at the edge and inside, however, with Turner and Carl Granderson strengthening the edge position.

PAULSON ADEBO, CORNERBACK

New Orleans Saints cornerback Paulson Adebo (29) intercepts a pass from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during early third quarter action. © Bob Self/Florida Times-Union via Imagn Content Services, LLC

New Orleans Saints cornerback Paulson Adebo (29) intercepts a pass from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during early third quarter action. © Bob Self/Florida Times-Union via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Packers came into the game with a deep receiving corps for Rodgers, the reigning NFL MVP. It was a recipe for disaster for a Saints team with huge questions at the cornerback position.

Pro Bowl CB Marshon Lattimore, even hobbled by a knee injury and suffering a thumb injury during the game, had fabulous coverage on Packers Pro Bowl WR Davante Adams. Lattimore, Desmond Trufant, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and FS Marcus Williams, who had a key interception, helped bottle up Rodgers weapons.

The Packers quarterback completed less than 54% of his passes for 133 yards. Their lone big play coming on a 31-yard pass to Adams on Lattimore's coverage at the end of the first half. Green Bay's strategy coming into the game would be to target rookie third-round pick Paulson Adebo at corner.

Adebo would be the star of a standout secondary in his first start. He played all 57 defensive snaps and allowed only one completion on four targets.

Adebo also recorded his first career interception, a pick of Rodgers to halt a Packers scoring drive to start the second half.

Even when Rodgers had time against the New Orleans pass rush, exemplary coverage by the Saints secondary allowed him nowhere to go with the ball.

THE ENTIRE SAINTS ORGANIZATION AND THE CITY OF JACKSONVILLE

Sep 12, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) reacts after scoring a second quarter touchdown against the Packers at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 12, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) reacts after scoring a second quarter touchdown against the Packers at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints had to move team operations to Dallas two weeks ago because of Hurricane Ida.

Because of a scheduling conflict with AT&T Stadium in Dallas, they had to fly from their temporary practice facilities in Texas to Jacksonville for a game originally scheduled in the Superdome.

The city of Jacksonville welcomed the nomad Saints, whose players, coaches, and personnel were focused on the damage at home.

Coach Sean Payton, his staff, and the Saints players did a spectacular job focusing on Sunday's game. Despite several offseason personnel losses, a new quarterback, and a handful of preseason injuries, they throttled a supposedly more talented Green Bay squad.


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