Green Bay Packers go into off week hurting after loss to New Orleans Saints

By Bill Huber, The Sports Xchange  |  Oct. 23, 2017 at 12:11 AM
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints are headed in opposite directions.

The Saints beat the Packers 26-17 at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

With Aaron Rodgers out with a broken collarbone and Brett Hundley making his first NFL start, the Saints (4-2) had an overwhelming quarterbacking advantage with veteran Drew Brees. At this stage of their careers, the 24-year-old Hundley is more physically gifted than the 38-year-old Brees. But Brees, his two early interceptions notwithstanding, played the superior game. His throws were on time and on the money, and he never seemed the least bit confused by the Packers' game plan.

Brees completed 27-of-38 passes for 331 yards and two total touchdowns (one passing, one rushing). Brees' short passing game set up two deep completions, including a 22-yard touchdown to Brandon Coleman in the third quarter.

Hundley, meanwhile, had a miserable starting debut. He completed 12-of-25 passes for just 87 yards. His longest completion went for only 14 yards.

The quarterbacking disparity was especially evident on third down, where the Saints converted 8-of-15 compared to the Packers' 4-of-11.

"You want to be able to sustain drives," Brees said. "That's what allows you to move the ball and wear a defense down and score points. You can do that a lot of different ways. I felt like we rushed the ball really well today. I felt like it was very balanced with the pass. We got some big plays in the passing game, and we also just executed the short passing game as well to keep drives alive. Time of possession was great. Typically, that's indicative of your third-down percentage, which we were over 50 percent there, and I think 36 minutes in the time of possession. That'll win you a lot of football games."

The victory was the Saints' fourth in a row. While Brees was efficient, it's the running game and the defense that give them a chance to turn this into postseason success.

The Packers, meanwhile, can't lean on either phase to get through Hundley's growing pains.

Mark Ingram II rushed for 105 yards. He put the Saints on the scoreboard in the second quarter and set up the clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter with a 22-yard run. Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara combined for 162 rushing yards and nine receptions.

"You don't know if it's run or pass," Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said. "You've got guys that can run the ball and get downhill. Those guys were doing that and it's hard to stop that when you can't stop the run or the pass."

The Saints' defense, meanwhile, continued its strong play. Over the previous three games, New Orleans ranked No. 1 in opponent passer rating. On Sunday, Hundley posted a passer rating of just 39.9. Green Bay's prolific receiving trio of Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb managed only five catches for 40 yards.

After Packers running back Aaron Jones carried four times for 70 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown, on the opening series, the Saints buckled down.

"I think our defense is playing phenomenally," Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said. "At this point, clearly, we are getting back to the quarterback. It goes hand in hand. The secondary is eating. The defensive line is helping us stand out even more."

While the Saints are surging, the Packers limp into their bye with a two-game losing streak. At 4-3, they are still very much in the playoff hunt. However, the Packers have no chance of extending their playoff streak to nine consecutive seasons with a quarterback throwing for less than 100 yards and a defense allowing 485 yards.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said he was "disgusted" by a second half in which his team blew a 14-7 lead and was outscored 19-3.

"It was a challenge that I didn't meet today," he said. "(Hundley) didn't get comfortable in the pocket, and that's my responsibility. So, I did a poor job coaching."

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