Da Boot Sports
Article courtesy of Crescent City Sports
By: Ken Trahan
Sean Payton is famous for telling his players not to “eat the cheese” in vociferous fashion, not to listen to the outside world and praise from others.Sunday in Jacksonville, Payton’s New Orleans Saints ate the cheese, as in the cheesehead Green Bay Packers. I am sure Payton did not mind.
On Nov. 8, 2020, the Saints went to Tampa Bay and bludgeoned the Buccaneers 38-3. It was the most complete performance of the season and arguably, the most complete performance in franchise history. It came against a team that eventually won the Super Bowl.
On Sept. 12, 2021, the Saints went to Jacksonville to play a “home game” and made themselves right at home in another complete performance in bludgeoning the Green Bay Packers and a team that is a perennial contender for Super Bowl honors.
The final score in both games was the same, 38-3 in favor of New Orleans. The similarities were striking.
It was a demolition. The Saints totally undressed, exposed and demoralized the Packers.
Despite losing its starting center on the opening series of the game and having to make two moves to replace him, the Saints did not miss a beat and dominated the game on both sides of the football, physically crushing the Packers.
Like many, I did not know what to expect on this day, though I thought the Saints had a chance to win.
Everything Mickey Loomis and the organization planned worked out off the field, including moving the team to Dallas and electing to play the opening game at Jacksonville, in the heat which the Packers are not fond of, and far away from the fan base of the Packers. For that matter, choosing to wear white and to make Green Bay wear green in the heat was smart as well.
The smartest thing of all was the way the coaching staff prepared its players in all phases and the way the players executed the game plan to perfection, ignoring the clear distraction of Hurricane Ida which would make a good excuse.
**Center Erik McCoy was hurt on the first series, resulting in Cesar Ruiz moving in at center and Calvin Thrackmorton replaced Ruiz at right guard.
**The Saints took an early 3-0 lead, driving 49 yards in nine plays, taking four minutes off the clock with Aldrick Rosas kicking a 44-yard field goal.
**On the drive, Winston ran twice for 26 yards.
**Kwon Alexander started and made two nice tackles on the first series for the Packers. It marked a remarkable journey of a swift comeback from a devastating torn Achilles tendon, being released, then being brought back.
**The Packers went for it on fourth-and-one from their own 34-yard line on the opening series and Aaron Rodgers hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling for three yards and a first down on a rub-route.
**Tony Jones lined up in the backfield with Alvin Kamara on the same play on the second series and Tayrom Hill lined up at running back and converted a third-and-one situation.
**The Saints had the ball for 11:09 in the first quarter to just 3:09 for Green Bay. New Orleans had 21 snaps to just five for Green Bay in the quarter.
**New Orleans completed a 76-yard drive in 15 plays, taking 7:51 off the clock with Winston shoveling a pass to Alvin Kamara for a 3-yard touchdown to make it 10-0 with 14:18 to play in the first half.
**On the drive, Winston had a huge 10-yard scramble for a first down to keep the drive alive. Additionally, Winston hit Deonte Harris on a 17-yard completion.
**Marcus Davenport had a tackle for a loss on the first Green Bay offensive snap and he came up with a big sack early in the second quarter when Zack Baun did not bite on a play-fake, bootleg by Rodgers and had Robert Tonyan covered like a blanket, leaving Rodgers with nowhere to throw it.
**Then, the Saints did it again on offense, wearing down the already tired Green Bay defense, driving 80 yards in 14 plays, taking a full 10 minutes off the clock.
**Sean Payton elected to go for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line.
**First, New Orleans drew Green Bay offside.
**Then, Winston, under pressure, hit Juwan Johnson, who elevated and made an excellent catch on an excellent throw for a 1-yard touchdown to give New Orleans a 17-0 lead with 1:07 to play in the half. It was the first touchdown of Johnson in his young career.
**Right before the half, it appeared the Saints may get another stop but C.J. Gardner-Johnson was flagged for hands to the face to keep the Green Bay drive alive.
**On the next play, Rodgers hit Devante Adams on a great throw and catch for 29 yards to the New Orleans 21-yard line.
**Green Bay took advantage to get points on the board as Mason Crosby connected on a 39-yard field goal as time expired to make it 17-3 at halftime. The drive covered 54 yards in six plays, taking 1:07 off the clock.
**New Orleans totally dominated the half, running 38 plays to just 17 for Green Bay. The Saints had the ball for 21:51 to just 8:09 for the Packers. The Saints had 208 yards to just 70 for Green Bay. That included a whopping 140 yards rushing.
**The Saints became the first team to have consecutive 15-play touchdown drives since Minnesota did so on Sept. 17, 2000.
**Marshon Lattimore did not start the second half, apparently suffering from a right hand injury. Desmond Trufant, who was just signed, replaced him. Lattimore played the entire first half. He did return with just over six minutes to play in the half.
**Green Bay took the second half kickoff and promptly drove to the New Orleans 9-yard line but Rodgers made a poor throw and rookie Paulson Adebo picked it off and returned it to the New Orleans 40-yard line. Cameron Jordan had great pressure on the play.
**Adebo, per Pro Football Reference, became the sixth player in New Orleans Saints history with an interception in his first game and the first since James Allen in 2002 on the famous botched punt overtime interception to win at Tampa Bay.
**Hill, as a tight end and reserve quarterback, returned to punt coverage teams.
**Blake Gillikin saw his first punt in the NFL downed at the Green Bay 5-yard line, an outstanding effort and a terrific job by former Packer Ty Montgomery to dive to catch it as the gunner.
**Marcus Williams then made an outstanding interception of Rodgers on a deep ball. Williams read Rodgers and worked from one side of the field to the other to pick it off with a great catch, hands outstretched. Williams then returned it 50 yards to the Green Bay 12-yard line.
**The Saints capitalized in full, driving 12 yards in three plays with Winston hitting a wide open Chris Hogan with a 9-yard touchdown pass to give the Saints a 24-3 lead with 3:07 to play in the third quarter. On the play, Winston stepped up in the pocket to avoid pressure and the threat of him taking off and running froze a defender or two.
**Green Bay then gambled on fourth down from its own 21-yard line and failed in a desperation move.
**New Orleans took over and Winston was intercepted in the end zone by Darnell Savage but Za’Darius Smith was called for roughing the passer, clearly a questionable call, and the Saints had new life via a break from the officiating crew. The interception may have been overturned by replay as the ball appeared to touch the ground but it was still a big break.
**The break turned into a touchdown as Winston hit a wide-open Johnson on a 10-yard touchdown pass. On the play, two Green Bay defenders collided in coverage, leaving Johnson all alone and the Saints led 31-3 with 14:54 to play in the game.
**Amazingly, the Saints got another stop and got another score, driving 66 yards in just four plays, taking just 2:14 to add to the lead on a perfect 55-yard bomb from Winston to Harris to make it 38-3.
**It was the fifth touchdown pass for Winston, tying his career high. It also illustrated that Winston, along with Harris, can stretch the field with the former’s big arm and the latter’s big speed, something Drew Brees could not do last season.
**Winston finished 14-of-20 for 148 yards with the five touchdowns and he rushed six times for 37 yards, including four first downs rushing. His quarterback rating was 130.8.
**Rodgers finished 15-of-28 for 133 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. His quarterback rating was 36.8.
**According to Fox Sports, it was the fewest yards passing for a quarterback with five touchdown passes in the NFL since 1948.
**Matt Lafleur threw in the towel with 10:46 to play, removing Rodgers and inserting Jordan Love into the game.
**Rodgers did not have a third down conversion in the game against the New Orleans defense. It took a fourth quarter completion by reserve Jordan Love to accomplish that feat.
**Tanoh Kpassagnon and Kaden Elliss finished it off as Kpassagnon had a strip-sack of Love, forcing a fumble and Elliss recovered to seal the deal.
All offseason, I have stated repeatedly here and on my radio shows on NASH ICON 106.1 FM that the Saints need to run the football more, in fact, more than they throw it. On Sunday, New Orleans rushed 39 times and passed just 21 times. Those 39 rushed resulted in 171 yards.
To find any negatives, Trautman had two drops and drew a penalty as well, not what you want to see from a player who is being counted on to be a solid starter.
Much like the enormous disappointment and negativity surround LSU and its loss to UCLA as a favorite must be put in perspective to remind all that it was just one game, the enormous euphoria and positivity of the Saints demolishing Green Bay must be put in perspective to remind all that it was just one game.
Still, you cannot help but be encouraged, if not thrilled, with what you saw from the New Orleans Saints Sunday.
Joe Buck perhaps stated it best when he stated on the Fox broadcast that Sean Payton should give a game ball to himself.
The Saints thoroughly outprepared, outcoached, out-hit and outplayed the Packers.
Though the cheese heads may have outnumbered black-and-gold fans in the stands, they left the stadium as mice, trying to scamper out without being noticed, much like their football team was in hiding all afternoon.
Carrying the reference a step further, the Saints turned the Packers into Swiss cheese without any real impact from their Swiss Army Knife (Hill).
Now, Payton can immediately rejoin the theme to his team of not eating the cheese after the praise that is certain to be lavished on his squad in deserving fashion, much as you read here.
It was a thing of beauty to watch as a Saints fan.
For perhaps a day, we will not have to read or hear about the Aaron Rodgers soap opera, though that is sure to ramp up again after this Green Bay performance. After all, this was the largest margin of defeat in the outstanding career of Rodgers.
Having watched New Orleans Saints football since day one in 1967, the win over Tampa Bay last year and the win Sunday over Green Bay, considering the opposition, were the best performances in the 55-year history of the franchise.
What a way to start!