The Jacksonville weather may not have brought the heat Week 1, but the New Orleans Saints sure did.
“It’s very humiliating and humbling at the same time,” Head Coach Matt LaFleur said of his team’s 38-3 loss on Sunday afternoon.
On paper, the Packers should have had an easy path to victory, but that’s life in the NFL. If you ask the players, though, this 35-point loss is simply a slight hiccup in a 17-game season.
“We played bad. I played bad. Offensively, we didn’t execute very well,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He called the team’s play uncharacteristic and said he hoped it’s an outlier moving forward.
Rodgers had 15 completions on 28 attempts for 133 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns, giving him a quarterback rating of 36.8 on the day.
The loss was the largest margin of Rodgers’ career, and the lowest scoring game of the LaFleur era.
“Sometimes you just get hit in the mouth,” said kicker Mason Crosby, who scored the team’s only points on the day.
So what went wrong on Sunday? Was this a Packers team that came into the season a little too confident?
“We probably felt like we were gonna go up and down the field on whoever they had out there, and that obviously wasn’t the case today,” said Rodgers.
“We’re coming off a couple NFC Championship Games and obviously feeling good about the unit that we have on offense. That’s what we talk about a lot,” he added. “So this is a good kick in the you know where, hopefully get us going in the right direction going back home and playing a division opponent next week.”
The Packers also abandoned the run game early, finishing with only 43 yards on the ground as opposed to the Saints’ 171.
“We just didn’t have that many snaps in the first half,” Aaron Jones said, talking about how teams don’t run the ball much in two-minute mode when they’re down multiple scores.
The ground game looked like it had potential in spurts, but with the Packers only holding the ball for eight minutes in the first half, they got behind early and had to turn to the air. Still, second-year running back AJ Dillon looked good in his four attempts, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
Defensively, the Saints brought a different look than the Packers saw last year at the Superdome, playing a lot of two-man coverages.
“When you have teams that are gonna do that to you, you better be able to run the football,” LaFleur said. “And we didn’t even really attempt to run it that much, which is my fault, ultimately, as the play caller.”
For the Packers defense, new coordinator Joe Barry’s unit left much to be desired, allowing the Saints to go 5-for-10 on third downs and 2-for-2 on fourth downs.
“Anytime we can’t get off the field on third down or we’re letting a quarterback scramble for first downs and all that kind of stuff…any defense is going to get tired,” said defensive captain Kenny Clark.
Fellow captain Adrian Amos agreed, saying the team allowed the Saints to pick up too many yards on first and second down, leading to a number of third-and-short situations.
“One game is not going to change my opinion on the play caller or our defense or anything like that,” said Amos, adding that there’s a lot of easy things to correct on tape. “I still have the utmost confidence in our defense.”
The key for the team moving forward now is to not let this game bleed over into the rest of the season.
“We can’t allow this loss to affect next week,” said LaFleur, who told his team “we’ll find out what we’re all about” after the game.
“The positive is, it’s a long season in the National Football League, 17-game season,” finished LaFleur. “Whether you lose the game 38-3 or 38-37, it’s all the same and you’ve gotta bounce back.”
“In the NFL, each team has a game like this a year,” added Aaron Jones, saying it’s best to get it out early. “This is one loss. It’s all about how you respond from it and how you respond to adversity.”
Amos, who led the defense in tackles with nine, had a fitting quote to end on. “We can’t let one game beat us twice.”
So far in the LaFleur era, the Packers have not lost back-to-back games. Green Bay will have an opportunity to bounce back at home on Monday Night Football against the division rival Detroit Lions.
Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack’s What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.