(WLAX/WEUX) – One has to go back 51 years in the franchise record book to find a worse opening-day loss than the one Green Bay absorbed by the New Orleans Saints in Florida yesterday afternoon.
The Detroit Lions routed the Packers, 40-0, before 56,263 fans at Lambeau Field on September 20th to open the 1970 season. The head coach was Phil Bengtson, the starting quarterback was Bart Starr. It was an atrocious start to a 6-8 season.
Sunday, Green Bay was dominated by a Saints team displaced by Hurricane Ida. And New Orleans new starting quarterback had a spectacular view.
Be honest. If told the score of the game would be a 38-3 rout and the winning quarterback threw for five touchdowns with a 130.8 quarterback rating and the losing quarterback would post a 32.8 rating, who would you pick for the latter?
Jameis Winston or Aaron Rodgers?
It was Rodgers who posted that abysmal career-low rating, while Winston had a career day against the Packers defense.
“This was for the city,” Winston said. “We did that for them. We knew how much it would mean to get a great victory for that region. They’ve been through so much. . . They inspired us to come out there and ball.”
Winston played like his predecessor Drew Brees (now a television commentator), completing 14 of 20 passes for 148 yards and five touchdowns for a gaudy 130.8 quarterback rating. He looked in total command of Sean Payton’s offense that kept the Green Bay defense off-balance the entire game.
Winston enjoyed stellar protection from his offensive line, but added a spark by rushing six times for 37 yards when under pressure—with four scrambles resulting in first downs to extend drives.
New Orleans led 10-0 after one quarter and 17-3 at halftime. The lead increased to 24-3 in the third quarter, when Rodgers uncharacteristically threw two ill-advised interceptions (one short and one deep) on back-to-back possessions.
The Saints defense, in a word was: dominant.
New Orleans held the Packers potent offense to a field goal, intercepted the league’s reigning league twice, limited Aaron Jones to nine yards and Green Bay to 229 in total offense (43 rushing).
The Packers finished a paltry 1-for-10 in third-down conversions. It started up front as New Orleans controlled the line of scrimmage and pressured Rodgers into a red-zone interception in the third quarter that ended any comeback hopes.
“This is a good kick in the you-know-where,” Rodgers said. We felt like we were going to go up and down the field on whoever they have that obviously wasn’t the case.”
Head coach Matt LaFleur called the loss “embarrassing) and said Packers players and coaches, including himself, had to look themselves in the mirror and get back to work.
“Give the Saints all the credit in the world,” LaFleur said. “They were ready to play.”
Green Bay was obviously not. The silver lining? The Vikings, Lions, and Bears also lost, so it’s a four-way tie for first place in the NFC North. The Packers host Detroit next Monday at Lambeau Field.