Instant analysis of Packers’ 38-3 loss to Saints in Week 1

By Zach Kruse

It’d be hard to imagine a more deflating season-opening performance for a team coming off back-to-back NFC title game appearances than the one the Green Bay Packers produced Sunday at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.

For much of the last month, the Packers talked about being locked in and hungry. The players certainly felt Super Bowl-caliber entering Week 1. But for four quarters on Sunday, Matt LaFleur’s team looked anything but.

Jameis Winston and the Saints moved the ball at will against the Packers defense and reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers threw two crucial interceptions while leading a lethargic offense, leaving the Packers to fly back to Green Bay with a 0-1 record after a 38-3 smackdown in the Florida heat.

It’s only one game. And teams recover from these types of losses and do great things every year. Just last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost 38-3 to the Saints at home but then went on to win the title. The Packers, during each of LaFleur’s first two seasons as coach, lost a game or two by a big margin but still managed to finish 13-3.

The feel of this loss is similar to Week 1 in 2014. That team went to Seattle and got whipped. And that team needed a few weeks to get everything figured out before it got hot and finished 12-4. The guess here is this team will follow a similar path, assuming Rodgers doesn’t regress into some kind of radical turnover machine just a year after a ridiculously good MVP season.  There’s still a lot to like about the construction of this team, and the stars leading it.

Let’s also be realistic: This was a bad loss. No way around it. The Saints have been displaced in Dallas for two weeks and were playing at a neutral site packed with Packers fans. They came out of the gates and played with energy, dominating the game from start to finish. Sean Payton and the Saints out-coached the Packers in every way. No Drew Brees? No problem. No team with this amount of talent should ever score only three points, give up five touchdown passes and lose by 35 points. This was a team-wide failure, from the coach to the quarterback and everyone in between.

And there are some real concerns coming out of Week 1. The offensive line, with two rookie starters, didn’t play well. They will be in the spotlight moving forward. The defense got run over in every way imaginable. The problems stopping the run and at cornerback behind Jaire Alexander didn’t magically disappear with Joe Barry calling plays. The pass-rush, when desperately need, didn’t show up. Most of the warts of this group were exposed again.

Week 1 losses are so deflating because so much time and energy are invested into the opener. Players and coaches prepare a long time for Week 1. To play so poorly despite all the promise and preparation is a tough pill to swallow, for players, coaches and fans. But the best part of Week 1 losses is the time ahead for redemption.

One measuring stick of a great team is the response to adversity. The Packers did not respond well to in-game adversity on Sunday. But LaFleur’s team has a chance to get back to work, re-focus and rebound in eight days when the Detroit Lions come to Lambeau Field for the primetime home opener.

The Packers’ Week 1 defeat will either provide the right dose of perspective for a talented team, or shake the confidence and resolve of a locker room facing immense pressure to start the 2021 season.


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