In Green Bay's last three victories, the Packers scored first as the offense put points on the board on either the first or second drive of the game, and having some success early against the Saints could prove to be crucial when the Packers travel to the Superdome on Monday night.
Last Sunday against Chicago, running back Ryan Grant posted a game-long 35-yard run on the second play from scrimmage. Although the drive didn't generate any points, the offense shifted the field as Chicago opened up its first drive at its own 10-yard line.
On the Packers' second possession, quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed all five passes for 61 yards and capped off the drive with a three-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Greg Jennings.
"Our offense thrives when we are in a rhythm, and we got in that rhythm a few times, especially the last two home games," Rodgers said. "We need to start that rhythm early. We can't have a three-and-out starting the game.
"You need to put points on the board early when you go on the road to take their crowd out of it and to minimize that extra element of their defense."
The Saints have a 4-1 record at home this season, with their only loss coming against Minnesota in Week 5, which was also on Monday Night Football.
"Going down to New Orleans is a challenge for any team because you play indoors," said Head Coach Mike McCarthy, who was the Saints offensive coordinator from 2000-04. "It's a lot like the Metrodome. It's very, very loud. Monday night it will be a big-time environment, and that's what we're preparing for."
Two weeks ago against the Vikings at the Metrodome, Green Bay's offense went three-and-out on its first two possessions, and Rodgers was sacked twice. The Vikings took over on their first drive at the Green Bay 39, and Minnesota's offense turned that fortuitous field position into a touchdown to take an early lead.
"I think you've got to learn from that experience and realize you can't have another repeat performance," Rodgers said. "We struggled. We let their crowd stay in the game and we didn't communicate as well as we wanted to, so we realize we've got to start fast."
Uncertainty in backfield
The last time the Packers faced Saints running back Reggie Bush, it was just his second game in the NFL for the No. 2 overall pick when the Saints visited Lambeau Field in Week 2 of 2006.
Whether they will face the explosive Bush on Monday night remains to be seen.
Bush, who has missed the last three games following surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee, was listed as limited on Wednesday and his status for the game remains up in the air.
McCarthy said they will prepare as if Bush will play against the Packers.
"He's a dynamic player," McCarthy said. "He has the ability to score from anywhere on the field, whether it's a punt return or a sway screen, or how they tend to get him the ball on the perimeter.
"It looks like he's running the ball between the tackles better than I recall in his rookie season when he played up here. He's a dynamic player."
In the seven games he played this season prior to the injury, Bush caught 42 passes for 366 yards (8.7 avg.) and three touchdowns, and rushed for 294 yards and two scores on 87 carries (3.4).
"He's a perimeter guy, lots of speed," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "He likes to get guys on the edge and beat them with that. Great receiver out of the backfield. He's great at isolating on linebackers and things like that, so he presents a lot of challenges."
Bush leads the NFL with three punt returns for touchdowns, two coming vs. Minnesota, and sports a league-best 21.9-yard return average.
Deuce McAllister has started the last three games in Bush's absence, and backup Pierre Thomas has also seen time. Thomas rushed for a season-high 88 yards on 16 carries at Kansas City last Sunday.
The Saints enter Monday's game having allowed just eight sacks this season, which leads the NFC and is tied for second-lowest in the NFL, trailing only Tennessee's six.
"I think their offensive line is probably the most improved area from our time playing them two years ago," McCarthy said. "It's an offense that will be an excellent challenge for us."
Although the Packers have posted only 17 sacks through 10 games, Kampman said he feels the defense has been successful in applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks, evidenced by the Packers' league-leading 16 interceptions.
"We have gotten pressure, (but) we haven't had the sacks that we would have liked to," Kampman said. "Last week against Chicago we had one and missed some opportunities. In the end I feel like we are getting pressure on quarterbacks.
"Obviously we always want more. We want numbers as high as they can be, and our guys in the back end are doing a great job. Hopefully that will continue to increase."
Linebacker Nick Barnett is out for Monday. He is scheduled to have surgery on his injured knee on Thursday.
Wide receiver Donald Driver (not injury related) did not participate in Wednesday's practice.
"The intent was to give him off today and tomorrow, just from a medical standpoint because he had a number of different things wrong with him," McCarthy said. "I just wanted to let him rest. He's had a personal situation that has come up and he is dealing with that right now. He is excused."
McCarthy said he expects Driver to be available for Monday's game.
Cornerback Jarrett Bush (ankle) did not participate. Bush originally sustained the injury at Minnesota but did play on Sunday against Chicago.
Tackle Chad Clifton (knees) and cornerback Charles Woodson (toe) were limited participants.
Defensive end Jeremy Thompson (groin), who was inactive vs. the Bears, was a full participant.
For New Orleans, cornerback Aaron Glenn (ankle) and fullback Mike Karney (knee) are out.
Bush (knee), McAllister (knee), wide receiver Marques Colston (knee), center Jonathan Goodwin (knee), defensive tackle Antwan Lake (knee), tight end Jeremy Shockey (ankle) and tackle Jon Stinchcomb (calf) were all listed as limited.
Since the Saints did not practice Wednesday, the participation designations were estimates.