What went wrong? Three takeaways from Packers vs. Saints

It was a nightmarish start to the 2021 season for the Green Bay Packers, who left Jacksonville thankful this is just the first game in a freshly extended 18-week season. The 38-3 final was indicative of this tale of two energies. One team woke up ready to play football on Sunday, and the other did not. Let’s take a look at three takeaways from the Packers week 1 game.

Trenches

In this matchup’s tale of the tape, the battle in the trenches was said to be the most intriguing matchup heading into the game.

The Packers entered this bout sans All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari and Saints were without stud defensive tackle David Onyemata.

Even after losing centre Erik McCoy in the first quarter to a leg injury, the Saints marched the field at will in this contest.

On defense, the Packers failed to record a pressure, knockdown, hurry, or sack. As a result, Jameis Winston posted a 130.8 QBR and five touchdown passes.

The Saints also ran the ball with ease at points in this game. Troy Aikman called it a clinic from the Saints’ perspective.

On offense, the Packers line played relatively well in the passing game.

Aaron Rodgers was sacked twice on the day, but neither should be put on the offensive line as Rodgers held the ball longer than usual, desperately searching for an open receiver.

The run game is where the line struggled mightily and it was ultimately the first nail in the coffin of the Packers’ uncharacteristically lethargic offense.

Ball control

Losing in the trenches on both sides of the ball leads to short drives on offense and long drives on defense.

Looking at the box score, 38 points and a 130.8 QBR looks like much of the onus should be placed on the defense.

While the defense didn’t play well, the offense failed to play complementary football.

The forecast was diligently noted entering this game as temperatures were expected to reach 100 degrees.

The Saints finished with over 34 minutes in time of possession, but 22 minutes came in the first half. That’s over 70% ball control in the first 30 minutes of the game.

The defense was gassed. It’s not an excuse, it’s just reality. Hands on hips and little energy quickly overcame the unit.

For reference, the Packers had three possessions in the first half, totalling 3:51, 3:11, 1:07, respectively.

The Saints also had three possessions, but their drives totalled 4:00, 7:51, and 10:00, respectively.

The defense had short breaks in a game where water and rest were crucial to the success of the team.

1st down

This game was lost on first-down.

The Saints’ offense consistently found themselves with medium yardage (4-6 yards) to go on second down, leaving the playbook wide open for offensive mastermind Sean Payton.

In fact, the only time it seemed like the Saints were behind sticks was when they were penalized for a false start on first down.

For the Packers, the run game was poor all day, leaving the team behind schedule and in obvious passing situations.

Rodgers noted in his post-game presser that the Saints played a lot of 2-high shells, leaving one less defender to stop the run.

The Packers still couldn’t muster together anything on first down and that led to the Saints dictating how the Packers would play.

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Joshua Frey-Sam is a journalism student and aspiring sportscaster hailing from Winnipeg, Canada. A Packers fan since 2005, Josh has worked to master the financial and scouting aspect of the NFL over the past few years. Josh remains a firm believer that Dez did not, in fact, catch the ball. You can follow him on twitter at @jfreysam.

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