As the Green Bay Packers kicked off their 2021 NFL season against the New Orleans Saints in Jacksonville Jaguars, it was a game many thought would never happen with QB Aaron Rodgers leading them. And even with him, the Packers were embarrassed on the road, 38-3.
For the offense, 233 total yards is never going to cut it, especially when that yardage output is combined with two Rodgers interceptions and one Jordan Love fumble – while the fumble did occur late in the fourth quarter, it was just a perfect synopsis of what all went on with this team on Sunday.
Truly, nothing positive can truly be taken from this game, but the main takeaways from the opening-week loss can be found below.
Offense struggles mightily
Not having had any work together in the preseason was quite evident for this offense, especially when it came to pass protection and blocking assignments. With Rodgers producing two awful arm punts and the team only rushing for 43 yards, there was not much that this offense could do right, forcing HC Matt LaFleur to throw his play sheet out the window early on in the game.
The Packers had nine offensive drives in the game – four resulting in a punt, two resulting in interceptions, one resulting in a fumble, one resulting in a turnover on downs, and one resulting in a field goal for the only points of the game.
Playing from behind ever since the first drive of the game, the Packers were never able to find a rhythm and establish themselves against the strong Saints defense, which was stout in the trenches and kept the Green Bay receivers in check. Even with Marshon Lattimore entering the game beat up and having missed time with a wrist injury, the Saints were able to shut down all pass catchers for the Packers.
Even when Rodgers did have time in the pocket (which was not super often), his reads were all locked up and he was unable to connect with anyone, consistently seeing Davante Adams locked up in double coverage down the field.
Rodgers threw five total interceptions last season, so the fact that he threw two today certainly points to some questions that will need to be answered next week against the Detroit Lions, a hopeful bounce-back candidate for the offense.
In mop-up duty, Love played decent, showcasing what he learned throughout his preseason work while also showing what he still needs to learn for the future – while his costly fumble in the red zone at the end of the game ended any chance to put up double-digit points, he was able to lead the team down the field and connect with his receivers routinely.
Did Mike Pettine actually leave?
Yes, technically speaking, Joe Barry was not LaFleur’s top choice in replacing former DC Mike Pettine when he did not return this offseason (that honor goes to UW’s Jim Leonhard). But Barry was chosen out of a selected group of defensive-minded position coaches, and he made sense from many perspectives as to why he would be a good fit in Green Bay.
But after seeing how Barry’s defense struggled to stop any part of NO’s offense, it remains to be seen how he was the upgrade that this team desperately needed.
Now yes, any sort of takeaways from this game for both sides of the ball need to be taken with many grains of salt, especially since it is the first game of the year. But many of these mistakes committed by both units are reminiscent of last year and the year prior’s shortfalls, so being worried this early in the season certainly has some merit to it.
Saints’ QB Jameis Winston, who was making his first start with the Saints after the retirement of Drew Brees, was efficient in low capacities, going 14/20 for only 148 yards, but he still was able to throw for 5 TDs along the way. Carving up a defense is not a known tool in Winston’s repertoire, so the fact that he was able to pick apart what many may consider to be an above-average secondary was eye-opening in many regards.
Being able to contain RB Alvin Kamara is a DC’s dream, and the Packers actually did a pretty good job of that – but with the score being out of control as early as it was, relying on the stud weapon was not as big of an issue, which could help explain why his 23 total touches resulted in only 83 total yards and a receiving score.
Concerns about the kind of defensive improvements that this team was supposed to have made for this season certainly are warranted, but this team has had early-season issues in the past (especially in winnable games). Keeping expectations semi-reasonable and tempered after only one game hopefully will produce better results down the road for this team, as difficult as that will be.
The competitive window for this team is written on the wall for any fan in tune with the happenings of this roster – and after the tumultuous offseason that surrounded this team in every possible way, thoughts of a high-expectation, low-result season certainly can begin to start creeping through.
But time and time again, this team has overcome shortcomings and unfortunate situations, and with the circumstances surrounding Rodgers’ future likely hanging in the balance of how this season goes (if it has not already been decided), they understand what needs to be done. As a member of a division like the NFC North that does not truly have any real competition for the Packers at the top, all they need to do is get right back on the horse in Week 2 and right the ship, helping turn this game into something of the past.
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23