Welcome back. The White House visit is behind us. So is the preseason. We've relished our time as Champions. Now, it's time to defend it. After three tremendous nights of Phish, I now have two nights to recover prior to making the trip to Football's Motherland. The last two defending Super Bowl Champions at Lambeau Field. Under the lights. In September. Fantastic!
Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. The last two Super Bowl MVP's squaring off to launch the 2011 NFL Season. It should be a dandy.
For the Green Bay Packers to repeat as Champions, the priority is to protect Rodgers. When looking at the present state of the Packers, if we can protect Rodgers, it has the makings of being a special year. When playing the Saints, the blitz will be coming. The Offensive Line better be prepared.
It's not surprising to see that Vegas has set the over/under for this game at 47 points, which is the highest over/under for Week 1. The offenses for both teams warrant significant attention. They are both high powered attacks. Well balanced. With a unique ability to score from nearly anywhere on the field. But, don't be surprised if it's the defenses that shine in this game.
Not to be so bland prior to the season opener of a title defense, but really, this is what the game comes down to: Protect Aaron Rodgers. Stop Mark Ingram. Tackle Darren Sproles on Special Teams. And hope Sammy Swagga does not have a below average game. If these occur, the Packers will win convincingly. But, that's easier said than done. If not, this one will be a nail biter.
The Packers offensive line was a question mark throughout the preseason. The Saints have a pension for bringing the blitz. Defensively, the Packers match-up well with the Saints. Priority #1 is not stopping Drew Brees. The Packers have to be able to slow down the run. Don't be surprised if the Saints try to pound away at the Packers. In an attempt to slow down Clay Matthews pass rush, the Saints game plan is likely to run right at him. They'll also attempt to pound the ball between the guards. It'd keep Aaron Rodgers off the field - limiting his opportunities as the clock keeps ticking.
The Saints will use play action in an attempt to freeze the Hawk and Bishop. Then, look for Brees to target Jimmy Graham. He's the target that scares me the most. I imagine that Colston will be lined up in the slot. Sir Charles will have to man-up vs Colston. Lance Moore might not play due to injury. Meachem and Devery Henderson are deep threats but Sammy Swagga and T-Mon can run with them. On the contrary, Graham can run. He can jump. And he's got solid hands.
I envision the Saints aggressively pursuing match-ups in which Shields is isolated 1 on 1 against a receiver. Shields needs to play as he did throughout the XLV Season.
And then there is Sproles. While Masthay is Pro Bowl material, someone has to make a tackle. Sproles is a legit weapon. Someone has to make a play on the ball.
Not surprisingly, look for the Packers to try and spread out the Saints. The intention will be to wear down the front 4 of the Saints. Shaun Rogers was a solid addition. But, you can tire him. Sedric Ellis is a force of an interior pass rusher. TJ Lang will be tested in his initial start at LG. To help Lang, the Packers will use the no-huddle, which will limit the Saints substitution patterns. We'll see the Packers start out with 3 WR's, J-Mike and Ryan Grant. It's Finley running down the seam. And the Saints can't cover him.
The Packers need to attack the middle of the field. Crossing routes. WR drag routes. I like Malcolm Jenkins, but he's still getting used to playing Safety. I thought he had a bright future at CB in this league - and he still might - but, for now, he's a Safety. We know that Roman Harper will inch towards the line. Harper loves the blind side blitz. When this happens, it's time to go after the middle of the field.
It was exciting to see the Packers get back to the screen pass during the preseason. Look for the screen pass to be a vital play in slowing down the Saints pass rush.
While Grant starts the game, look for Starks to be the back to finish the game. He'll be the bruiser that bounds away late in the game.
The Packers ride the rocking intensity that is brought by the Lambeau faithful. With true excitement, Rodgers finds his rhythm. He connects with Jennings on a puma route. He finds Driver over the middle. He hits J-Mike on a roll-out. Grant punches out 3 yards. And then, J-Mike is found streaking down the middle of the field. 7-0 Green Bay.
Early in the 2nd Quarter, the Saints look to control the clock. They find success with Mark Ingram. Ingram pushes forward after contact. Brees uses Jimmy Graham on third down to keep the sticks moving. Graham catches a jump ball in the end zone. Momentum changes and the Saints grab a 10-7 lead.
It's Starks on a screen. And good things happen. Eventually, Rodgers connects with Jennings in the corner of the end zone.
With the Packers leading 14-10 in the 3rd Quarter, Darren Sproles shows his elusiveness on a punt return. Ingram continues to pound at the Packers defense. The Saints grab a 17-14 lead as Ingram finds his way into the end zone.
Rodgers goes back to work. Finding Driver for a first down over the middle. With that, Double-D becomes the all-time leading yardage receiver in the history of the organization. The Packers reach the end zone, but the drive stalls. 17-17.
On a delayed blitz up the middle, Walden comes flying through. Untouched. He hits Brees and jars the ball loose. While the Packers can't convert it into 7 points, they take the lead 20-17.
Brees leads the Saints down the field. In 2008, Brees used Colston to take on Sir Charles. He goes at the match-up again. He has light success. But, the guy Brees looks to expose throughout the night is Sammy Swagga Shields. While Shields responds with a decent game. He struggles to help get the Packers off the field. As the Saints near the Red Zone, it's Woodson coming on the blitz. Lined up right next to Clay. Clay stunts to the inside. Woodson spins to the outside. And the pressure forces an incompletion.
Setting the stage: 3 minutes left. Tie game. National TV. Kicking off the NFL Season. The ball is in Aaron Rodgers hands. Epic.
He looks to Jennings on an out pattern. 1st down. He goes to Jordy on a comeback for a 1st down. He hits Finley. Finley finishes with 8 catches. So, it's up to Crosby. From 37 yards and the win....it's good!
Green Bay 23. New Orleans 20.
Green & Yellow. Green & Yellow. Time to go Pop Tarts on the Saints!
Go Pack Go!