Friday, 09 September 2011 14:35

New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers Was Game Of Inches

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BreesThey say football is a game of inches and on Thursday in Green Bay, that old saying rang true.

The defending Super Bowl champion Packers stopped the Saints at the one yard line on the final play of the game and escaped from Lambeau Field on Thursday night with a 42-34 season-opening wing-dinger at Green Bay.  

On first and goal at the one-yard-line with no time left on the clock, rookie running back Mark Ingram was denied at the goal line to end the game.

Saints irrepressible quarterback Drew Brees completed 32-of-49 for 419 yards and three touchdowns. He connected with tight end Jimmy Graham, wide outs Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem on his scoring tosses. Brees was sacked three times.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers connected on 27-of-35 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns. Neither quarterback threw an interception in a game that exceeded most expectations. Both teams scored on long, breath-taking returns, both teams struggled on defense and both quarterbacks were at the top of their games. Rodgers finished with a 132.1 passer rating and Brees was almost as sharp at 112.5.

Packers rookie Randall Cobb tied the NFL record for longest kickoff return with a 108-yard touchdown.

On the other hand, the Saints' Darren Sproles brought back a first-half punt 72 yards for a touchdown and set up a field goal with a 57-yard kickoff return. He also caught 7 passes for 75 yards.

Five times the Saints drove inside the Packers' 20, but could only get 10 points.

On the last play of the game, Saints coach Sean Payton   inserted multiple tight ends and went with Ingram on a power smash. He tried to leap over the pile at the end zone, but was stopped by linebacker Clay Matthews as he was taking off.

"You have to get the yard," said Ingram. "Find a way. It was one yard. It was a dive play between the right guard and center. They have some great players."

Henderson led Saints receivers with 6 catches for 100 yards and Marques Colston hauled in 6 catches for 81 yards. Ingram led he Saints with 40 yards on 13 carries. Pierre Thomas added 5 carries for 31 yards.

Safety Roman Harper led he Saints with 9 total tackles (7 solo) and a sack. Cornerback Jabari Greer and linebacker Jonathan Vilma each had 7 tackles.

"This was a lot different than a regular-season game," said Packers GM Ted Thompson. "This was more like a playoff tempo game. Both teams geared up for this one."

"It was a great game to watch," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "TV's happy. Our fans are happy.   I'm happy."

John Kasay kicked 30- and 38-yard field goals for the Saints without a miss.

Saints touchdowns: Meachem, 31-yard pass from Brees; Graham, 5-yard pass from Brees; Henderson, 29-yard pass from Brees; Sproles, 72-yard punt return.

The Saints outgained the Packers 477-399 against a team they might see four months from now in the NFC playoffs.

 Here are some post-game quotes:

(on the loss) “Obviously it was a hard-fought game. I was proud of the way we hung in there and fought back. There will be a lot of things on tape that we’ve got to clean up with this first game. Credit Green Bay. They did a very good job and did all the things they needed to do to win a home game like that.”

(on Green Bay’s offense) “It was a really good offense we played. Aaron (Rodgers) did a really good job. They’re an up-tempo team. Both teams were converting but we were having trouble getting off the field. There will be a handful of things we’ll look at and have to improve on, but part of that is a credit to Green Bay as well.”

(on the fourth-and-one play in the third quarter) “Hindsight, it’s easy to say kick the field goal. But that being said, we felt like we had a play we wanted to run, but it didn’t work. It’s not an easy call, but it’s one that you look back on and I’ll kick myself a little bit.”

(on running back Darren Sproles) “He’s electric. He changed (the game) for us. He gave us some momentum with the punt return and he’s one of those guys that makes great decisions in space.”

(on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers) “It’s a little bit of a cat-and-mouse game. We got to him early, but he’s got a quick release and he’s got a handful of targets, obviously, starting with the tight ends and receivers. He’s probably one of the top quarterbacks in our league under pressure.”

(on the team’s red-zone offense) “I think the biggest stat for us that is disappointing is our red-zone efficiency. We were 1-of-5, scoring touchdowns only one out of five times in the red zone. That’s not going to win you a lot of games, especially on the road in this type of environment against this team.”

(on getting down 14-0 early in the game) “Obviously they jumped out early. We knew we might need to weather the storm and I felt like we did a good job of staying composed and finding a way to scratch and claw our way back, and we did that. We had a chance at the end at least to tie it.”

(on whether or not it was the type of game he envisioned coming in) “Here’s the thing, you’ve got two great offenses and you’ve got two great defenses. It can be a 17-10 game; it can be a 42-34 game. You just don’t know what to expect. You just know you’ve got to take care of your business one play at a time.

(on playing in his first NFL game) “Of course I was excited. It has always been a dream come true to play in the NFL, but at the end of the day I am more about winning. Today we didn’t come out with the win so we need to work hard and fix things that didn’t work out for us.”

(on the loss) “As a team we did a lot of things well, but I think when we look at the film we are going to kick ourselves in the butt a couple times with the turnovers and not converting on short yardage plays. I think that hurt us.”

(on the last play of the game) “You have to get a yard. It is the goal line to win the game. I have to get a yard.”

(on his touchdown catch) “It was just an opportunity that I took advantage of and Drew (Brees) did a good job of getting the ball to me.” 

(on the game) “They did a good job of moving the ball. They did a good job on offense and they didn’t make any mistakes. Sometimes you need that to win a game. I give them credit; they did a great job. We fought, but we just came up short. It was a great game. I enjoyed playing in it. It is the first game, so we can’t hang our head on this one.”

(on Aaron Rodgers) “We knew coming into it that he would make some plays. A lot of those were just some great throws into tight coverage. We just have to live with that. We tried to adjust to those back shoulder throws, but they earned those plays.”

(on if he thought the game would be such a shootout) “No defense wants to go into a game thinking it will be a shootout, but we knew they would have an explosive offense. We also feel comfortable with Drew that he will always keep us in games even when we aren’t at our best. When you have Drew Breesas your quarterback, you always have a chance.”

by Ed Staton

(Visit Louisiana Sports t\ to order you Matt Ingram jerseys and LSU/Oregon game shirts).


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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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