Game recap: 5 takeaways from Packers' season-opening loss to Saints

38-3 blowout went from bad to worse in a hurry

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

The 2021 opener could not have gone worse for the Packers, a 38-3 blowout at the hands of the Saints in Jacksonville, Fla.

Here are five takeaways from the roughest of starts to a new season.

1. There's plenty of blame to go around.

Head Coach Matt LaFleur and quarterback Aaron Rodgers put it on themselves in a game that left the Packers feeling good about nothing.

"They obviously came out with a lot more intensity than we did," said LaFleur, who was as surprised as he was upset about the performance. "They were the hungrier team and that's disappointing, especially when you have a team like we feel we have. But ultimately I did a pretty bad job getting these guys ready to play.

"Turnovers, penalties, lack of execution, can't get off the grass on defense … It was just an all-around poor performance. That starts with myself."

The defense allowed a field goal and then two 15-play drives for touchdowns to start the game, while in between the offense generated just two first down on its first two possessions.

"We played bad, I played bad, and uncharacteristic of how we've practiced in training camp, and obviously how I've played over the years," Rodgers said. "This is hopefully an outlier moving forward. We'll find out next week."

2. The Packers blew their one chance to get back in the game, and that was that.

Despite falling behind 17-0 early, Green Bay wasn't out of it. A field goal on the final play of the first half preceded a good drive to start the second half that reached the New Orleans 9-yard line.

But on second-and-7, Aaron Rodgers was under pressure and his throw to a crossing Davante Adams was way behind him and intercepted. Instead of possibly cutting the deficit to 17-10 with a quarter and a half to play, the Packers never got closer.

"You can't do that, and then it just snowballs," LaFleur said of the turnover. "He threw it to the right guy. Davante was open. They got him off the spot, he had to make an off-platform throw, and sometimes that happens."

Rodgers actually wished he had dumped it off to running back Aaron Jones or just thrown the ball away to get another crack on third down. He called it the play of the game.

"That kind of swung things big-time," Rodgers said. "That obviously turned the game, changed the game."

The Green Bay Packers faced the New Orleans in a Week 1 matchup in Jacksonville on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021.

3. This was out of character in so many ways.

The Packers ranked second in the league in third-down efficiency last season, and first in the red zone. But they didn't convert a third down until Jordan Love replaced Rodgers in the fourth quarter, and Green Bay didn't have a turnover in the red zone all last season but gave the ball away the first time down there on Sunday.

From there, things only got worse, as the Saints took advantage of short fields, needing to cover just 12 yards for a TD after another Rodgers pick, and then 21 yards for a score after a turnover on downs.

Saints QB Jameis Winston ended up throwing five TD passes despite only 148 yards passing, going 14-of-20 for a 130.8 passer rating. Rodgers finished 15-of-28 for 133 yards with the two interceptions for a 36.8 rating.

4. LaFleur wasn't going to make a bad day worse by getting fined.

Clearly unhappy with a roughing-the-passer call on Za'Darius Smith that wiped out an interception in the end zone by Darnell Savage, LaFleur didn't comment on it after the game.

"Trying to get me in trouble?" was his answer to a question about the play.

It was 24-3 late in the third quarter when Smith knocked Winston down with a very hard hit that looked bad but appeared perfectly legal. Savage intercepted the third-down pass off a deflection while sliding in the end zone and ran it back to the 31-yard line, a play that might have provided a glimmer of hope.

But it was not to be.

5. It wasn't a good day for the NFC North as a whole.

With Chicago's night game against the Rams still pending, nobody in the division won on Sunday afternoon. The Vikings lost in overtime at Cincinnati, 27-24, and the Lions fell at home to the 49ers, 41-33. Both NFC North rivals had late-game comebacks come up short.

The first division game for anyone in the North is next Monday night, when the Packers host the Lions. The Bears and Vikings will both face teams that won their openers, which Chicago hosting Cincinnati and Minnesota traveling to Arizona.

It'll be a long week for the Packers, waiting all the way until Monday night to play again. This early in the season, an extra day isn't really needed, but they'll have to put it to good use somehow.

"I just said we'll find out what we're all about," LaFleur said of what he told the team afterward. "We talk about in the face of adversity, staying together, not flinching, that's exactly what we have to do, and we have to get back to work.

"This isn't going to magically repair itself. The only way I believe you bounce back from defeat, any setback, whether it's in football or in life, is you put in the work, so that's what we have to do."


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