Injuries played a big roll in the Packers loss, but so did a lack of speed on defense, most notably from A.J. hawk, and everyone at the strong safety position.
The Saints have quietly put together a historically good offense, and in particular, an amazing passing game. Many thought that an early injury to Marques Colston would derail the Saints, but the discovery of Lance Moore, a couple of OK tight ends, and Reggie Bush have combined to make this a truly deadly attack. Moreover, it makes the Saints capable of exploiting a major Packer weakness.
Ever since Cullen Jenkins went down with a torn pec the Packers have struggled to generate a pass rush. They choose to keep Aaron Kampman on the strong side (I believe because seeing him coming at you is almost as disruptive as not seeing him coming at you), which makes him easier to deal with for calm QBs. To generate a pass rush, the Packers are often forced to blitz. On Lance Moore's first touchdown Charles Woodson came on a blitz and failed to get there leaving Moore in single coverage with Atari Bigby. Bigby had no chance.
Both Bigby and Aaron Rouse are rather slow, and better in run support than pass coverage. Once the Saints noticed this they exploited it again and again, using their WR depth to create impossible matchups. Compounding problems was A.J. Hawk's shocking lack of speed. Hawk is also suffering from injuries which have really hurt his pursuit. On Monday, he frequently failed to get a deep enough drop in pass coverage which led to one easy touchdown early, and a huge gap between LB and safety that was exploited by Shockey and Billy Miller.
Miller also abused Aaron Kampman up front, often releasing downfield into a wide open area, and taking advantage of Kampman's overaggressive behavior.
The complete inability to stop the run compounded all of these problems, as the Pack could not spare any of their front 7 for an extra DB without being gouged for 7 yards a clip.
This was, in short, a complete defensive breakdown precipitated by injuries, and superior Saints personnel.
On offense the Packers were fine until two things happened.
1. Greg Jennings fell down at the same time that Aaron Rodgers made a poor throw, allowing one of the league's worst DBs to pick an errant pass and put the Saints up by 3 scores.
2. They abandoned the run.
Once the Packers were backed into a corner and went exclusively to the pass it all spiraled out of control. This was compounded by the knowledge that the defense was completely unable to stop the Saints offense in any way. I don't know or care if any rubes are claiming that Favre would have won this game. Maybe he would have. But this seems to me like one of those games where Favre would have thrown 6 picks, forced to keep up with a scoring machine on the other side. "Rams Game" springs immediately to mind.
I'm not sure that there is much to be learned from this game. The Packers are certainly backed into a corner and have to be considered huge underdogs to make the playoffs. The advantage they have is another game against the Bears with the possibility (with a season sweep) of gaining two games on them by beating them once. The Vikings still face the Bears, Cardinals, Falcons, and Giants down the stretch and should lose a few of those. The Pack has a tough game coming up against Carolina, but then faces a struggling Texans team and a struggling Jaguars team before finishing up with the Bears and Lions. The Bears have a similar schedule except they still have to face this New Orleans team.
Conventional wisdom is that it will take 10 wins to take the North, but I can see 8 getting it done. I wouldn't count on it, but it's possible. At any rate, while we have little margin for error, we're not dead yet.
1. Frost is just terrible. If we miss the playoffs by one game it will be because of our punter. That is infuriating.
2. Why did we lock up Brady Poppinga through 2012? Does Thompson foresee a scarcity of mediocre linebackers on the market in the near future?
3. I believe the Packers made an early strategic decision to have Mason Crosby keep the ball in play on his kickoffs, which cost them at the end of the first half when poor coverage cost the team a field goal. After that, Mason boomed them through the end zone.
4. A lot of players were slipping on the turf. How can an indoor stadium with fake grass suffer from bad field conditions?
5. Aaron Rodgers missed easy touchdowns to Greg Jennings at lest twice early in the game by underthrowing the ball.
6. For all of the bad Packer play, that Lance Moore pass has to be one of the stupidest calls ever, and momentarily kept the Packers in the game.
7. Mark Tauscher's loss hurt more than people realized.
8. Can I really start Donovan McNabb again after last week? The Cardinals are bad against the pass.
9. Who do we cheer for next week, the Bears or the Vikings? I say the Bears.
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