FURTHER REVIEW: Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints kickoff season in style
If defense wins championships, the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints must have missed the memo.
The old adage seemed preposterous Thursday night after the teams figuratively and literally kicked off the new season at Lambeau Field. After all, the Packers were Super Bowl champions last season, while the Saints claimed their first-ever title the year prior.
Playing to a 42-34 final may excite fans, but it causes defensive coaches to pull their hair out (if they have any left at this point).
Oddly enough, it was defensive plays that highlighted the win for Green Bay. After the Packers put together an efficient touchdown drive where Rodgers showed no signs of rust or a Super Bowl hangover, Saints wide receiver Marques Colston fumbled the ball back to Green Bay in prime position to tack on another score. The early momentum gave the Packers a command of the game that they would maintain throughout the night.
The Saints scratched and clawed until the final play, as they needed a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the game. Quarterback Drew Brees was able to drive the New Orleans offense to the Green Bay goalline after a pass interference penalty as time expired gave the Saints a final opportunity.
New Orleans gave the last-chance carry to rookie running back Mark Ingram, who was met in the middle by the Packers defense – an unfitting end to a game that, at times, resembled a track meet.
A few exquisite examples of shoddy tackling gave way to an abnormally high output of offensive fireworks. Not only were both quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Brees dominating the statistical categories, even the special teams were shining on both sides. After the smoke cleared, Brees (32-of-49 passes, 419 yards, three touchdowns) and Rodgers (27-for-35 for 312 yards and three first-half touchdowns) had stat lines that read like something out of a video game.
New Saints returner Darren Sproles and rookie Randall Cobb shattered expectations as each brought back kicks for scores. Sproles, formerly of the San Diego Chargers, scampered 72 yards for a score on a punt return. Cobb brought a kickoff from eight yards deep in the end zone out, and completed a 108-yard return for a touchdown.
In the nationally-televised event, the skill players proved to be the biggest stars of the night – with all due respect to opening musical acts Lady Antebellum, Maroon 5 and Kid Rock.
Make no mistake about it, those looking for textbook tackles and sound kick coverage were in for disappointment.
On the other hand, those interested in pass-heavy offenses and game-breaking returns were in for a treat.
It may difficult to gauge since both teams are known for extraordinary offense, but in the weeks to come, it will become more evident who has the defense to be successful over the course of the season. Keep in mind, it was just the first game of the season. This bit of anecdotal evidence does not disprove the idea behind “defense wins championships.”?
After 16 regular contests, a few playoff games and a Super Bowl, a team will have to figure out how to make a few defensive plays along the way to win it all. Both the Saints and the Packers have done so in recent history.
It will be interesting to see if either or both can develop into a more complete team. If they can, they may have another Super Bowl run ahead.