The Packers entered their neutral-site Week 1 game against the Saints as slight favorites. They didn’t play like it at all in a 38-3 loss.
New Orleans never trailed and Green Bay failed to slow its NFC counterpart after holding it to a field goal on its first possession. Packers coach Matt LaFleur was blunt after the game when asked about his team’s performance.
“[They] absolutely embarrassed us,” LaFleur told reporters.
Indeed, the Saints beat the Packers in just about every facet of the game. The three points the Packers racked up were the fewest in a game Aaron Rodgers started and then didn’t leave because of injury, per ESPN’s Field Yates.
So, what exactly went wrong? Here’s an in-depth look:
Aaron Rodgers had a bad game
There’s no denying that Rodgers was a part of the Packers’ struggles. He even acknowledged it after the game.
“We played bad,” Rodgers told reporters. “I played bad.”
He made several uncharacteristically poor throws, including on his two interceptions. The first interception came on an ill-advised pass. He was under heavy pressure from Cameron Jordan and Christian Ringo and just got rid of the ball. He threw behind Davante Adams and the pass went right into Paulson Adebo’s hands.
Some of the responsibility for that pick falls on the offensive line, too, but Rodgers needed to throw the ball away. He tried to do too much and instead made a poor, game-changing throw.
Rodgers’ second interception was his worst throw of the day. He effectively treated it as a Hail Mary as he put the ball up for grabs downfield. Saints safety Marcus Williams caught it with ease and then made a long return.
That turnover set up the Saints’ third touchdown, which extended New Orleans’ lead to 24-3. There was just a quarter left to play after that, so the touchdown made the Saints’ lead feel insurmountable.
Rodgers was pulled in the fourth quarter with the Packers trailing 38-3. He finished with 15-of-28 passing for 133 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He had no rushing attempts.
The Packers’ offensive line struggled
Of course, Rodgers wasn’t the only reason the Packers performed poorly. Their line also played a big role.
Green Bay came into the game without starting left tackle David Bakhtiari. He’s on the PUP list as he continues to recover from a torn ACL that sidelined him last season. Left guard Elgton Jenkins moved outside to replace him. Jenkins was replaced inside by Lucas Patrick. Two rookies — Josh Myers and Royce Newman — manned center and right guard, respectively.
The inexperienced unit allowed just one sack of Rodgers, but the veteran quarterback was under pressure for most of the game. As such, he couldn’t take advantage of the Saints’ thin cornerback room. His receivers, led by Davante Adams, couldn’t get enough separation downfield in the little time Rodgers got.
The Packers didn’t stick to the run
Green Bay totaled just 43 rushing yards on 15 attempts. The issues with the ground game were twofold.
First, the backs didn’t have much room to run as the revamped and reshuffled offensive line went up the Saints’ defensive line, which turned in a solid performance. Green Bay had just one starter playing in the same position he occupied in 2020 (right tackle Billy Turner).
Second, the Packers simply didn’t run the ball enough. Aaron Jones had just two carries for zero yards in the first half and generated just 9 yards on five carries for the game. The 9 yards were the third-fewest for his career and his fewest since 2018.
“We didn’t run the ball; we didn’t even attempt to run the ball enough,” LaFleur told reporters. “So that’s my fault.”
Jones needed to do more with his opportunities, but LaFleur and Co. also needed to get him into a rhythm. That could’ve helped take pressure off Rodgers. Instead, the responsibility of leading the offense fell squarely on the quarterback, and that didn’t pan out.
The Packers’ secondary made too many mistakes
Jameis Winston threw for 148 yards on 14 completions in 20 attempts. On the surface, those numbers are modest. But add in five passing touchdowns, and things don’t look nearly as good for Green Bay.
The secondary had numerous blown assignments on Winston’s touchdowns. That’s why almost half his completions resulted in TDs.
The breakdowns on the first two weren’t particularly bad, but the third TD began to reveal some of Green Bay’s coverage issues. Chris Hogan managed to shake loose in the back of the end zone for the score.
Late in the game, the Packers lost Juwan Johnson in the red zone and allowed Winston an easy pitch-and-catch touchdown.
Finally, Kevin King let Deonte Harris get by him and Winston found the speedster for a 55-yard touchdown. Another throw to a wide-open receiver.
King particularly struggled on the final two scores, contributing a pick on teammate Chandon Sullivan — who was supposed to guard Johnson — and struggling to recognize that the speed-threat Harris was playing deep. Overall, the team needed to play stickier coverage to make life more difficult on Winston. Green Bay couldn’t do that.
Winston had a lot of time to throw, too, as Green Bay’s pass rush rarely pressured him, but the secondary’s performance still left a lot to be desired, especially against a Saints receiving corps that was without Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, Adam Trautman and Nick Vannett.