Wondering why one shouldn't blame officials for a loss? Because of games like this one. Even though Darren Sproles was called down by contact while completely upright, nullifying a crucial fumble, the Green Bay Packers defense was able to come up with a crucial fourth quarter stop. Garrett Hartley missed his field goal attempt after two penalties forced three attempts at the kick, and James Jones made an incredible third down catch to seal a 28-27 Packers win.
The Packers appeared to have the game well under control in the first half. Both teams traded early touchdowns, but the New Orleans Saints blinked first. Aaron Rodgers found Jones on the Packers' first drive, which was quickly answered by a Saints touchdown to Marques Colston. The Packers scored the next two touchdowns, through Jennings and Jones, to make it 21-7 in the second quarter. Their offense would dry up a bit shortly afterwards, partially due to some awful luck. Before halftime, the Saints put together an impressive 80-yard drive to cut the Packers' lead to 21-14 at halftime.
Hartley added a field goal for the Saints early in the second half, but the Packers responded by driving down inside the Saints' red zone. It appeared like the Packers were about to take control of the game and go up by two scores until Rodgers was inadvertently poked in the eye. He would return, but needed to sit out a play. The ensuing play was a disaster.
It's not obvious who the blame should fall on, but it's irrelevant at this point. Graham Harrell tripped while attempting to hand the ball off, resulting in a fumble, which was recovered by New Orleans. Four plays later, Drew Brees hit Joseph Morgan for an 80-yard touchdown, as Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett completely blew their coverage. In a matter of a couple of minutes, the game was turned completely on its head and New Orleans had a 24-21 lead.
Rodgers returned to the field and quickly, but threw a terrible interception to Patrick Robinson. At that point, it felt like everything that could go wrong was going to go wrong for the Packers. The Saints started to drive the ball down the field again, but the defense came up big like they hadn't at any point since the first quarter, holding the Saints to a field goal to keep their lead to six points. This would be the last time that the Saints scored in the game.
The Packers had to punt on their next drive, but the defense rose to the occasion by forcing a three-and-out with zero yards gained for the Saints. On the following drive, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson marched the Packers down the field. Cobb made three receptions on the drive, two of which went for first downs. The crucial play was a perfectly executed shovel pass, which went for 17 yards. That set up the Packers inside the red zone, where Rodgers found Nelson for an 11-yard touchdown pass.
Green Bay appeared to all but ice the game on the ensuing kickoff, when Darren Sproles fumbled the ball and Dezman Moses came up with the recovery. Incredibly, the officials convened and determined that Sproles was down by contact. When he lost the ball, Sproles was completely upright and a couple of seconds from hitting the turf. Mike McCarthy, having lost two challenges earlier, was unable to challenge the ruling.
The Saints made the most of their gift and drive the ball into field goal range, though Green Bay's defense did enough to stop them from getting into the red zone. Hartley made his initial 43-yard attempt, but the kick was nullified by a holding penalty. The Packers jumped offside on the next try, setting Hartley up with a 48-yard attempt, which he pulled wide left.
Cedric Benson -- who had his best game in a Packers uniform -- picked up seven yards with his next two runs, setting up 3rd down and 3. With a chance to ice the game, the Packers took to the air. Rodgers appeared to miss his mark on the throw, but Jones -- who was interfered with on the play -- came up with an absolutely incredible catch to pick up a first down and clinch the game for the Packers.
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