The Green Bay Packers overcame a 17-0 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter and beat the New Orleans Saints 18-17. The Packers were sloppy early in the game and committed far too many penalties but managed to overcome their own mistakes with a late rally. Jordan Love ran for one touchdown and threw for another. The win improved the Packers to 2-1 on the season, the Saints dropped to 2-1. Here are 10 things we learned from the Packers comeback win over the Saints:
First Thing We Learned in the Packers Win: The Packers Were Missing Nearly All Their Pro Bowl Players
With a short week ahead, the Packers were conservative with their injured players. Four Pro Bowl players were inactive for the game. Offensive tackle David Bakhtiari sat out his second straight game. Guard Elgton Jenkins missed the game as expected after spraining his MCL a week ago. Aaron Jones missed his second consecutive game with a hamstring injury and cornerback Jaire Alexander was also inactive after suffering an injury in practice this week. The Packers also didn’t dress wide receiver Christian Watson who has yet to play this season.
Since they are playing a division rival on Thursday, the Packers opted to be conservative with their injured players.
During the game, De’Vondre Campbell suffered an ankle injury and did not return. That left the Packers without five Pro Bowl players for most of the game.
Second Thing We Learned: Jordan Love Kept His Cool
A lot was going on around Love that could have unnerved any quarterback let alone one making his first ever start at Lambeau Field.
His offense committed far too many sloppy penalties and receivers broke off their routes too soon or dropped passes. Love had already thrown his first interception of the season and his team trailed by three scores entering the fourth quarter.
But Love stayed calm and led the Packers on three fourth-quarter scoring drives to win the football game.
Love got it done with both his arm and his legs as he ran for some key first downs in the fourth quarter.
Although his final statistics were not outstanding, Love completed a comeback in a game without his two best offensive linemen, his top running back and his most dangerous wide receiver. It may not have been a work of art, but it was a great piece of leadership and clutch play by the young starter.
Third Thing We Learned in the Packers Win: Penalties Were Costly
For the first three quarters of the game, the Packers couldn’t get out of their own way. In the first half alone, the Packers cost themselves 60 yards in penalties in the first half and finished the game with 11 penalties for 90 yards.
This young team went through a lot of growing pains in this game but managed to be better in the fourth quarter.
There were too many false starts and other mental mistakes during the first three quarters. The fact that the Packers kept their cool and overcame these penalties to win the game speaks volumes about the character of this team.
Fourth Thing We Learned: Rashan Gary Is an Elite Pass Rusher
Edge rusher Rashan Gary continues to look like an elite pass rusher. While still recovering from the season-ending knee injury he suffered in Week 9 last season, Gary had three sacks in this game and made three total tackles.
The former Michigan star got steady pressure on both Saints quarterbacks and looks like a player that offensive coordinators must account for any time he’s on the field.
Fifth Thing We Learned in the Packers Win: Special Teams Allowed a Big Play
The Packers special teams gave up a costly big play in the first half. With the Saints leading 7-0 in the second quarter, Rashid Shaheed ran back a punt 76-yards for a touchdown to give the Saints a 14-0 lead.
Without this big play allowed, the Packers would have been within two scores the entire game.
Rich Bisaccia’s group played well besides this play and made some good stops on kick return coverage.
Still, the special teams cannot allow splash plays like this which can and often are game changing.
Sixth Thing We Learned: The Defense Played Well
The Packers defense allowed just one touchdown and one field goal all game. Yes, New Orleans missed a long field goal on their final drive, but the defense allowed only 10 points in this contest.
The Saints gained just 252 net yards for the game and averaged just 3.5-yards per rush. This was a stark contrast to last week when the Falcons ran right around the Packers defense.
Add the four sacks and multiple pressures and keeping New Orleans to just 4-of-14 on 3rd downs and the defense had a strong overall performance.
Seventh Thing We Learned in the Packers Win: Young Receivers Made Plays and Mistakes
The Packers young receiving corps continues to show both their talent and their inexperience.
Tight end Luke Musgrave led the team with six catches on eight targets. The rookie second-round pick is showing himself to be a reliable target for Jordan Love.
Romeo Doubs had five catches for a team-high 73 yards and caught the game-winning touchdown pass that required incredible concentration.
Doubs had 12 targets in this game which shows he still has a way to go on contested catches and precision route running.
Jayden Reed also made some big plays including a big 30-yard catch, but he was targeted seven times and needs to improve his catch percentage.
Dontayvion Wicks also caught four passes for 45 yards and had his moments in this game. This unit should only get better as these young receivers gain inexperience and Watson returns to the lineup.
Eighth Thing We Learned: Fourth Down Was Still a Problem
Matt LaFleur’s decision making on fourth down was questionable. On their first drive, the Packers were in New Orleans territory and facing a fourth and two. The Packers play call was fancy, a flea-flicker but Emanuel Wilson’s pass back to Love was off target and Love’s subsequent throw fell incomplete.
The second miss came in the third quarter with the Pack down 17-0 and needing to make it a two-score game. Instead, LaFleur opted to go for it. Patrick Taylor stopped his route on a swing pass that would have had the first down and the pass fell incomplete. For the second straight time, the execution was off.
The Packers went 1-for-3 on fourth down in this game but many of LaFleur’s play calls and decision-making was questionable.
Ninth Thing We Learned in the Packers Win: Keisean Nixon Played Offense
Keisean Nixon has now played defense, special teams, and offense for the Packers. He had been asking LaFleur to let him play when the Pack had the football and today, he got his chance.
The result was an 11-yard run for a first down on a reverse. The gain helped give the Packers momentum and spark their comeback.
Nixon is dangerous with the football in his hands, and we should see more of him on offense on occasion.
Tenth Thing We Learned: This Team Doesn’t Quit
The Packers blew a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter last week and trailed 17-0 after three quarters against the Saints. They had given up 30 straight points and were facing a 1-2 start to the season.
Instead of quitting, the young Packers scored 18 unanswered points to win this game and improve to 2-1. This game should give the Packers a boost of confidence when they face similar situations in the future.
The win also sets up an early-season showdown Thursday night against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau with first place in the division on the line.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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