NEW ORLEANS—A hamstring injury Aaron Rodgers sustained in the third quarter changed the personality of a game that was tied when the injury occurred, but slowly deteriorated into a 44-23 loss to the Saints on Sunday Night Football.
"It definitely affected him. He was limited to playing in the pocket," Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said of the injury Rodgers suffered as he ran for a first down that left the Packers first-and-goal from the Saints 6-yard line, the scored tied at 16-16.
"It's obvious how we played after," McCarthy added.
Two plays after Rodgers was injured, a pass intended for Andrew Quarless in the end zone glanced off Quarless' hands and was intercepted. Four plays and 88 yards later, the Saints took a 23-16 lead.
"I'm not going to miss any time," Rodgers said when asked about the injury. The injury is significant enough that Rodgers limped into the end zone on a 14-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Rodgers will have the bye week to rest and recover from the injury. It was the No. 1 topic of Rodgers' and McCarthy's postgame press conferences.
Despite the injury, Rodgers finished the game, a positive sign for his recovery efforts.
"Not any options. It was continue playing as long as I could hold up. I felt like I could still go," Rodgers said.
He finished the game having passed for 418 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a 93.8 passer rating. Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for 311 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 138.4 passer rating.
"I don't think they slowed us down at all. I don't think a lot of defense was played tonight," McCarthy said.
The Packers gained 491 yards; the Saints gained 495. It was another Packers-Saints shootout.
"We were able to execute our game plan," McCarthy said.
What the Packers weren't able to do was score touchdowns. They stalled several times in the red zone.
"Uncharacteristic of our team and of myself. It was just taking points off the board. Penalties and turnovers hurt us tonight, and kicking field goals," Rodgers said.
At 5-3, the Packers fell a game behind the Lions in the NFC North title race. The Lions rallied from a 21-0 deficit to defeat the Falcons, 22-21, in London on Sunday.
One of the Packers' red-zone failures occurred on a play in which defensive end Julius Peppers lined up as the tailback and then shifted to wide receiver, where he had single coverage against a smaller cornerback. Rodgers zipped his pass for Peppers, but it bounced off Peppers' chest.
"We've been practicing that since training camp. He ran a great route. He's got to catch the ball," McCarthy said.
"It was a little harder than maybe he was expecting," Rodgers said of the pass he threw for Peppers. "He got his chest on it."
In what was Eddie Lacy's homecoming game, he rushed for 59 yards and caught eight passes for 123 yards, including a screen pass he turned into a 67-yard gain.
The Packers offense moved up and down the field, but not across the goal line with the same ease. The issue now becomes Rodgers' sore hamstring. COMPLETE GAME COVERAGE