There were a multitude of reasons the New Orleans Saints exited TIAA Bank Field with their first win of the 2021 season on Sunday.
But perhaps the area that most heavily influenced the Saints' 38-3 win over the Packers was their dominance in the run game.
A year after running the ball just 20 times during its 37-30 loss to Green Bay at the Superdome in Week 3, New Orleans nearly doubled that output with Alvin Kamara, Tony Jones Jr. and Jameis Winston combining for 37 rushes for 171 yards.
The Saints used the run to shorten the game in the first half, executing a pair of 15-play drives that produced touchdowns and ate a total of 17 minutes, 51 seconds off the clock.
Kamara had more than twice as many carries (13) in the first half than he did the entire game (six) against Green Bay last September.
"We really just didn't stop them on early downs at all this game, and sometimes we were out of gaps and little things here and there," safety Adrian Amos said. "(Kamara) is a great football player and they're a great team. But we have to look at ourselves and look at where we were doing things where we want to make them beat us, not beat ourselves in certain situations."
Conversely, the Packers struggled to get their own running game going against a stingy New Orleans front. Pro Bowler Aaron Jones was held to just nine yards on five carries, while Green Bay finished with 43 yards on 15 attempts.
The Packers had just one possession in the first quarter, which would've been a three-and-out had they not gone for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 28. On the second series, AJ Dillon punched out two 6-yard carries on back-to-back plays before three straight Aaron Rodgers drop-backs.
By the time the Packers saw the ball again, they were down 17-0 and operating mostly out of their two-minute offense.
"We just didn't have that many snaps in the first half, and then once we came out, we were down," Jones said. "I think that put us in the passing game, and after that we were down even more so we had to go into two-minute mode. Not a lot of running the ball in two-minute mode."
Dillon led the Packers with 19 rushing yards, with rookie seventh-round pick Kylin Hill also picking up 14 yards on five fourth-quarter carries.
Rough call: The Packers appeared to generate their first takeaway of the season when Za'Darius Smith pressured Winston into throwing an interception to safety Darnell Savage in the end zone near the end of the third quarter.
Instead, the officials called roughing the passer on Smith whose hit was neither late nor made contact with Winston's helmet.
Defensive lineman Kenny Clark was diplomatic when asked about the penalty after the game but seemed genuinely puzzled about the call – asking the reporter who posed the question about whether an explanation was given for what Smith did.
"I was coming off a (stunt) and I was wrapping around and it looked like a clean hit to me," Clark said. "It was a hard hit. It definitely was a hard hit, but I felt like he was on target. He led with his shoulder. I don't think he landed on him from what I seen, but it was just a tough call at that moment of the game.
"It is what it is. We've got to live with it. I mean, that call didn't change nothing with the game. Just the whole defensive performance today wasn't good enough, period."
The Green Bay Packers faced the New Orleans in a Week 1 matchup in Jacksonville on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021.
Love makes his NFL debut: Suited up for the first time in his NFL career, quarterback Jordan Love wound up playing two series in the fourth quarter after the game was out of reach.
Love completed 5-of-7 passes for 68 yards (102.1 passer rating), including a 19-yard pass to Amari Rodgers that converted Green Bay's only third down on 10 attempts. He also hit veteran Randall Cobb on a deep crossing pattern for 32 yards.
The second-year quarterback drove the Packers all the way down to the Saints' 5-yard line before Tanoh Kpassagnon's strip sack resulted in a Kaden Elliss fumble recovery.
One more debut: Newly acquired Corey Bojorquez flashed the big leg – and hangtime – in his maiden voyage as the Packers' punter.
The fourth-year veteran averaged 44.0 yards (40.8 net) on his four attempts, placing one inside the 20. He also put one 47-yard punt directly on the 20 after it rolled out of bounds.