Legendary senior writer & Packers lead blogger jclombardi’s insider review & grades.
SUMMARY: In another controversial game involving bad calls by the regular referees against the Packers, the Packers won a shootout with a fourth quarter comeback score winning 28-27. The winning score came on an 11 yard strike from QB Rodgers to WR Nelson. The turning point occurred in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. A Saints holding penalty wiped out their good 43 yards field goal for a lead. Then, after an encroachment Packers penalty, Saints kicker Garrett Hartley’s 48 yards attempt sailed wide left. The Packers took over running the clock out for the big victory going 2-2.
GAME BALLS: WR Jones; RB Benson; QB Rodgers.
INJURY REPORT: Safety M.D. Jennings (shoulder injury). DE Pickett (shoulder injury); WR Jennings (re-injured groin).
HORRIBLE REFEREES: For a second straight game, the Packers had to deal with bad officiating, but it was the regular referees who made three bad big calls: (1) a push-off in the end zone by Saints receiver Marques Colston on a touchdown catch (again offensive pass interference) (2) in the third quarter on a third-and-five situation, Saints QB Brees completed a eight yards pass to TE Jimmy Graham. McCarthy challenged the completion when replay showed the ball hit the ground before Graham gained full control. Yet, the refs ruled it to be a catch allowing the Saints to continue their offensive drive and getting a field goal and (3) A fourth quarter fumble by Saints KR Sproles that they incorrectly ruled down by contact.
PASSING OFFENSE: B+ vs A- vs B+. QB Rodgers completed 31 of 41 for 319 yards, four touchdowns, 1 interception, and 119.9 rating. Wisely, the Packers perfectly executed their short passing game, completing 30 of 34 passes that were less than 15 yards He completed only 1 of 7 passes over 15 yards. WR Gordy Nelson had eight catches for 93 yards and two drops. WR Randall Cobb had 7 catches for 66 yards. Big play WR Jones had 5 catches for 56 yards and 2 touchdowns. TE Finley had 4 catches for 54 yards and one big end zone drop.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A- vs B vs B+. The Packers ran 21 times for 102 yards averaging 4.1 ypc. RB Benson rushed 18 times for 84 yards averaging 4.7 ypc. He finished with 106 total yards gaining 84 yards on the ground and 22 yards receiving on four receptions. He has good vision on his cutbacks plowing through the gaps for good yardage. QB Rodgers scrambled 5 times for 11 yards.
For the running game analysis, BM noted these comments:
Cedric Benson gets better every week. The fact that the Packers didn't have a single "bad" run in his 18 rushes is a remarkable achievement. It's also a credit to Benson's ability to read his blockers and make them look good. Mike McCarthy has called Benson a natural, and each week that becomes more apparent.
The Packers have a real running back now but they have to learn how to use him. It has been so long since the Packers had a real running back, I almost forgot what one looked like.
PASSING DEFENSE: D vs C- vs D+. Again, the veteran Saints QB Brees exploited the Packers leaky soft zone coverage. The Packers allowed a whopping 454 passing and 3 touchdowns. Knowing the Saints game plan, the Packers struggled to stop it getting very little pressure with only two sacks. Brees dropped back to pass 56 times getting hardly touched throughout the game. On one sack, OLB Clay Matthews ran an inside stunt went untouched to tackle Brees. On the Packers' other big sack, defensive end C.J. Wilson beat left guard Ben Grubbs.
Saints WR Colston had 9 catches for 153 yards and 1 touchdown. TE Graham had 7 catches for 76 yards. WR Morgan had a big catch for a 80 yards touchdown. In the 14 point swing after backup QB Harrell's fumbled handoff at the Saints 1 yard line, Morgan beat Packers CB Shields badly for the Saints score. WR Moore had 7 catches for 67 yards. The linebackers had mixed results in the passing game getting improved performances in the final quarter. Among the cornerbacks, CB Williams had the only great game.
RUSHING DEFENSE: A+ vs A vs A. The Packers run defense had a strong performance. They held the Saints to 19 carries for only 45 yards. Saints RB Sproles had 5 carries for only 20 yards. RB Thomas had 9 carries for 14 yards. RB Ingram had 5 carries for only 11 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B vs B vs A-. Packers kicker Crosby kicked off five times averaging 69 yards with 4.13 seconds hang time. Punter Masthay punted twice averaging 41 (gross), 39 (net) and 4.28 hang time. In the second quarter, the Packers executed a gutsy fake punt. FB Kuhn ran for a first down on 4th-and-inches inside their 20-yard line.
COACHING: B vs B- vs ?. Head Coach McCarthy ran a balanced game plan using an effective running game combined with a successful intermediate passing game. The special teams produced another big successful play. However, the pass defense was leaky and too soft in coverage.
OVERALL: B vs ? vs B+. In a pivotal home game, the Packers won against the Saints and the referees. They are 2-2 facing the Colts next Sunday on a 3 game road trip.