Key to the game: Packers' epic comeback started with complementary football

All three phases came together in victory over Saints

Green Bay Packers WR Romeo Doubs secures an 8-yard touchdown catch with 2:56 remaining in the Packers' 18-17 victory over the New Orleans Saints.

GREEN BAY – A week ago, a lack of complementary football proved costly for the Packers in a disappointing road loss in Atlanta.

On Sunday, it might have saved them.

In what goes down as one of the greatest comebacks in franchise history, the Packers pulled together during Sunday's home opener against New Orleans to rally for an emotional 18-17 win over the Saints in which Green Bay scored 18 unanswered points, all in the fourth quarter.

Making the dramatic even more extraordinary was the fact the Packers were missing several key starters and the team was just seven days removed from watching a 12-point, fourth-quarter lead evaporate into a 25-24 loss to the Falcons.

"Down 17-0 in the fourth quarter, it was just all about the grind and what we're going to do to come back," receiver Dontayvion Wicks said. "The defense did a great job, special teams. Everybody worked together and we made it happen."

A bitter lesson in the importance of complementary football served the Packers well in a monumental rally in which the offense, defense and special teams all contributed.

Sunday began with the realization the Packers would be without All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander (back), All-Pro offensive lineman David Bakhtiari (knee), Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones (hamstring) and top receiver Christian Watson (hamstring) due to injury.

The news didn't get much better on the field, as the Packers conceded a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown to Rashid Shaheed and fell behind 17-0 at halftime.

Yet, with everything the team was up against, no fingers were ever pointed. Nobody shouted. If panic was present, it wasn't apparent.

"We came in here at halftime, like we got all the bad stuff out of our system in the first half," safety Darnell Savage said. "All we can do is go out there and play free, whatever happens, happens. Just looking around in the locker room, we were still confident."

The rally started with Green Bay's defense keeping New Orleans off the board in the second half, enabling Packers quarterback Jordan Love and the offense a chance to get into rhythm.

Once they did, the Packers were hard to stop. Four of Green Bay's six longest plays came in the final 15 minutes, along with back-to-back defensive pass interference penalties that set up the Packers' first touchdown drive with a little more than seven minutes remaining.

Head Coach Matt LaFleur could've been content with cutting the Saints' lead to 17-10 but chose to go for two after Love scored off a read option on fourth-and-goal from the Saints' 2.

Love danced around in the pocket and bought time until receiver Samori Toure came free for the score.

"I kind of like tried to move to space because I know J-Love works off schedule, wants you to find space," Toure said. "I moved to my outside, and then J-Love looked at me like he was going to throw it, and then ran away from me and then threw it back without even really looking first."

Cornerback Rasul Douglas believed one of the most critical plays of the comeback happened on the ensuing kickoff when Savage knifed between two blocks to drop Shaheed at the New Orleans 17.

The defense drew from a loud pop from the Lambeau Field crowd and forced another three-and-out when Saints quarterback Jameis Winston, in for an injured Derek Carr, sailed a pass over Shaheed.

The Packers took it from there, with Love scrambling for 24 yards down the New Orleans sideline and then connecting with Reed on a 30-yard pass. On third-and-3, Love threw a back-shoulder pass to Doubs for the go-ahead score with 2:56 left.

It was the third time Green Bay had tested a one-on-one matchup between Doubs and Saints cornerback Isaac Yiadom, who was flagged for a 22-yard DPI against Doubs on the previous scoring drive.

"Trust, man," said Doubs, who added, "Things like that come by, it always starts from practice throughout the week. We work on it all of the time. The first two reps, I'll give them the credit; I just came down with it on the third one."

Check out photos from the Week 3 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.

Winston and the Saints moved the ball on the next series, connecting with Chris Olave on a 28-yard pass into Packers' territory. A few plays later, however, Savage made a key tackle of Michael Thomas on third-and-8 to force the Saints' field-goal unit onto the field.

Rookie kicker Blake Grupe then pushed his 46-yard attempt wide right, allowing Love to kneel out his first win at Lambeau as the Packers' starting QB.

According to Elias, it's only the second time in Packers' history that Green Bay won a game after trailing by 17-plus points entering the fourth.

During their 2018 opener against Chicago, the Packers officially kicked off their 100th season with a 24-23 victory after trailing 20-3 through three quarters. Sunday's outcome also helps the Packers move past last week's letdown in Atlanta.

"We had a bad taste in our mouth," defensive lineman Kenny Clark said. "There's spurts where we play really good defense, really good complementary football and we gotta keep that going and be consistent with it. For us to come out, we got down early and then be resilient and fight through that, it was huge for our team and going to give us a lot of confidence."

The Packers must turn the page quickly as the Detroit Lions come to town on Thursday. Still, Green Bay's veterans feel there's much a young team can learn from how bouncing back at the most critical time.

"We came back, and we won that game," Savage said. "It's on tape now. We want to keep that same energy and keep that same confidence and keep it going."


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