The New Orleans Saints played host to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, but the Packers were the ones who stole all the momentum at the tail end of a premium NFC shootout. Drew Brees rebounded from a quiet Week 2 loss with three touchdowns, including two to star play-maker Alvin Kamara, and the Saints appeared on their way to a potential late-game victory thanks to a crucial fourth-down stop. Aaron Rodgers and Co. were more dangerous, however, driving up and down the field to claim a 37-30 win and improve to 3-0 on the 2020 NFL season.
Here are some immediate takeaways from the Packers’ third straight win.
Why the Packers won
The Saints may have some good pieces on their defense, but like Derek Carr a week earlier, Aaron Rodgers just picked them apart on Sunday night — except in much more thrilling, big-play fashion. Without Davante Adams in the lineup, No. 12 still managed to connect on a handful of beautiful bombs and thrive on rollout tosses while feeding an ultra-productive Allen Lazard. He also killed New Orleans in crunch time with his smarts, most notably drawing a pair of penalties to put the Pack in the red zone with a lead and under four minutes to play.
Credit Matt LaFleur for dialing up a game plan to keep the Saints on edge all night long, and credit Rodgers for executing it with authority. Defensively, Green Bay wasn’t nearly as effective, allowing Alvin Kamara to rack up video-game stats as Drew Brees’ top passing outlet, but they also took away most of Brees’ outside targets, limiting Sean Payton’s attack to a dink-and-dunk approach for much of the evening.
Why the Saints lost
Most of the blame belongs with the defense, where New Orleans and its veteran leaders — Cameron Jordan, Malcolm Jenkins, Demario Davis — failed for a second straight week at keeping things within reach. Marshon Lattimore may have had a critical fourth-down stop, and Davis may have sacked Rodgers, but a couple of highlights mean nothing when you give up nearly 40 points at home, especially to a team without its clear-cut No. 1 wideout. Where in the world was the bootleg defense? Rodgers had nothing but wide-open targets.
You can also attribute some of the late-game shift in momentum away from the Saints to Sean Payton’s decision-making, specifically his insistence on incorporating Taysom Hill at inopportune times. Drew Brees, meanwhile, shouldn’t be lambasted for a very efficient performance that rightfully fed Alvin Kamara (an absolute stud in the game), but you still have to wonder whether his hesitancy to push the ball downfield has hindered their ability to win shootouts.
Tied at 27, the Saints had just gotten a huge stop on a fourth-and-1, stuffing an Aaron Jones run to take over early in the fourth quarter. But then, instead of calling on Brees to continue his efficient short-area passing attack, Sean Payton trotted out Taysom Hill for a read option, during which Hill fumbled away the ball, gave Green Bay possession and set up a Packers field goal that put the visitors out in front for good.
Play of the game
No one came close to matching Kamara on his razzle-dazzle catch-and-run TD to knot the game at 27 late in the third quarter. This play alone epitomized a huge night for the Saints’ star running back, who just might be the best non-QB play-maker in the NFL:
The Saints (1-2) will hit the road in Week 4 to take on the Detroit Lions (1-2), who just upset the Arizona Cardinals in a comeback victory. The Packers (3-0), meanwhile, will be back in prime time on Monday night to take on the Atlanta Falcons (0-3), who have now blown two straight 15-point fourth-quarter leads after falling to the Chicago Bears in Week 3.