The Green Bay Packers’ home opener looked anything but promising heading into the final quarter on Sunday versus the New Orleans Saints. The energy left the stadium early in the first quarter as the Packers started with a 1st-and-25 after a couple of penalties on the game’s first drive. They never really recovered and the Saints led 17-0 at halftime.
The Saints lost Derek Carr late in the first half and Jameis Winston came in to finish it out, but the Packers’ defense held up its end of the bargain. The offense needed to find some answers but seemingly couldn’t as the running game could never get going, the receivers and Jordan Love were hardly on the same page, and Love was under-throwing passes down the sideline.
The receivers also dropped at least four passes (though they were credited with two drops officially from Pro Football Focus), including potentially two touchdown drops on drives where the Packers ended up scoring anyways (one was on a field goal drive, their first points of the game).
But the offense didn’t nab its first touchdown until Jordan Love’s 1-yard touchdown run on a zone read concept at the goal line with 7:02 remaining. The Packers picked up some life on this drive thanks to 67 yards worth of penalties on back to back defensive pass interference flags.
First play, 4th quarter, 1st-and-10 GB 20, 8:27 remaining
The Packers are running a 4-level flood with a high corner, a deep out, a return route in the flat, a swing route by the running back. The play is designed to flood the boundary and put defenders in vertical conflicts by forcing them to declare their man in coverage and giving the quarterback a defined throw and read. The defense is in cover-2 man.
Loves reads the two defenders covering the deep out and the deep corner by Dontayvion Wicks. The Saints safety drives on the deep out so Loves heaves the pass downfield to Wicks on the corner route with the nickel defender trailing him. The pass comes up a little short and as Doubs tries to make an adjustment on it, the defender impedes his path, drawing the flag.
Second play, 4th quarter, 1st-and-10 NOR 35, 8:20 remaining
This time, Romeo Doubs’s defender, Isaac Yiadom, drew the flag for pass interference.
The Packers are running a levels concept from the trips receiver side of the formation to Love’s left with Doubs singled up to the right versus Yiadom. Love isn’t actually able to follow through on the pass as his hand was hit as he released it, causing the pass to sail past Doubs downfield but as he turned to try to make a play on it, Yiadom collided with him, drawing the penalty flag.
Third play, 4th quarter, 1st and 10 @ NOR 13, 8:16 remaining
More on this play later in an article on the second scoring drive, but Love tried to hit a go ball to Romeo Doubs in the front right corner of the end zone.
It was a great throw but Doubs couldn’t hang as the defender knocked the pass away.
The fourth play was incomplete to Musgrave on 2nd down.
The next three plays were pass targets for Jayden Reed where he caught one, dropped one, and end up in the vicinity of another receiver as he tried to catch a third.
Fifth play, 4th quarter, 3rd and 10 @ NOR 13, 8:16 remaining
Love converted this 3rd and 10 throw here to Jayden Reed that set up a first and goal situation. The Packers were getting into a lot of these 3x1 and 3x2 (empty) trips formations to isolate certain Saints coverage defenders and take advantage of the coverage rules in the red zone.
The play call is a 3x2 double digs concept with a clear out route from the tight end and a smash/slot fade concept to the two receiver side. The defense is playing cover-2 red in the red zone, a common coverage Dennis Allen calls is in this area of the field.
The clear out occupies the deep safety and the 3-receiver/middle hook defender, opening space for Reed on the dig route with Wicks behind him as the outside dig. Love completes the pass but it’s unclear why he drifts away from the throw in a clean pocket. He likely would have hit Reed on the move if he drills it on him. Falling away from the throw causes Reed to make a difficult adjustment on the catch.
The sixth and seventh plays occurred with a 1st-and-goal from the 2-yard line and both were passes intended for Reed.
The first pass is a dropped touchdown pass and mental mistake that cannot happen with the game on the line. The second pass looked like a receiver miscommunication but it’s not clear on who. Reed ends up rounding his route off behind Wicks who looks like he’s running an end zone fade.
It’s possible that Wicks should be running a 1-step slant but we can’t be sure. There are never supposed to be two receivers in the same space like that though so there was a communication bust by someone.
On the eighth play, a third down, Love handed off to Patrick Taylor up the middle for one yard.
Ninth play and two point conversion, 4th quarter, 4th and 1 @ NOR 1, 7:01 remaining
Jordan Love scored the Packers first touchdown from one yard out on a zone read keeper.
He’s reading the defensive end here and when he crashes the running back, Love pulls the ball and keeps it himself for the touchdown. The Saints linebacker is unable to adequately scrape exchange with the defensive end and Love dives into the end zone for the touchdown.
On the two point play, the receivers were unable to get open so Love had to buy time and scramble around in the pocket while the receivers found space. Love looked back to the left and found Samori Toure for the conversion. At this point it was 17-11. They would still need a stop and another touchdown to win but Matt LaFleur played the odds correctly by going for two and gave his team a chance to win.