NEW ORLEANS—The Packers have reached the midway point in the season a game behind the Lions in the NFC North title race. More and more it's beginning to look as though the division title might be on the line when the two teams meet in the season finale in Lambeau Field.
Sunday had a bad feel to it, beginning in the morning when the Lions rallied from a 21-0 deficit to defeat the Falcons in London. The day concluded with Aaron Rodgers sustaining a hamstring injury that turned a 16-16 game with the Packers on the Saints 6-yard line into a 44-23 rout by the Saints.
"Very disappointing for our football team. They were obviously the better team tonight," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said.
What was most disappointing for the Packers is that a defense that had become the team's feel-good story through a four-game winning streak, became the major reason to feel bad about what happened in the Superdome on Sunday night.
The Packers were gashed for 495 yards, 28 first downs and 193 yards rushing. Mark Ingram rushed for 172 yards and a 7.2 yards-per-carry average, and a run-defense that had been improving, quickly reverted to its old ways.
What about the Packers' NASCAR defense? The Saints beat it with screen passes, likely making the NASCAR a specialty defense to be used exclusively in one-dimensional circumstances.
This was not a good night for the Packers. They fell out of a first-place tie, saw their quarterback injured, saw an old problem resurface, and head into their bye week with the sting of defeat.
When Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers talks to the media on Monday, he almost certainly will cite big plays as the main reason for the Packers' poor performance on defense. The Saints' big plays included a 50-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks and a 45-yard reception by Kenny Stills. No disrespect, but Cooks and Stills have yet to become household names.
"They're better than their record," Rodgers said of the Saints. "We would've had to score 45 to win tonight."
The possibility exists the Packers could find themselves going back to New Orleans this season. That's right, for a playoff game.
Maybe that would be a good thing. After all, the Packers gained 491 yards against the Saints.
Rodgers said the Saints "blitzed twice all night. They did a good job of sticking to their plan."
Would that be the 491 plan? That's some plan.
"They played a lot of match coverage, rushing four. Their four got up the field," Rodgers added.
Really? Up what field? Oh, the field on which Rodgers was playing when he only had one healthy leg.
The truth of the matter is this is a game of which the Packers were in control with the score tied and the ball first and goal at the Saints 6-yard line in the third quarter.
That's what stings the most. COMPLETE GAME COVERAGE