The New Orleans Saints 2012 season has turned into a nightmare as the team is 0-4 heading into the month of October. Sunday in Green Bay, the Saints played better than in previous weeks, played hard but still could not come up with a win falling to the Packers 28-27.
"It's going to hurt when you lose a game like this," said Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer. "But I will not let them get down. We are too close."
It was a heartbreaking loss as the Saints thought they had a 30-28 lead with just under three minute to play. Kicker Garrett Hartley hit a 43-yard field goal but a holding call on tight end David Thomas wiped it out. After a Green Bay offside penalty moved up the ball five yards, Hartley pulled a 48-yarder wide left.
"It felt good going out there," Hartley said. "The first one, I hit it well. I had to come back and do it again. I guess for the third time, you know, I moved the ball left. The ball has been coming off of my foot great all week and all game. Unfortunately, when it came down to it, protection was great, snap, hold, everything. It ended up tailing left.
The Packers would then run the clock out to win a game that had the feel of two playoff contending teams despite that their combined records going into it were 1-5.
Quarterbacks Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers battled it out through the air combining for 765 yards passing. Brees was 35 of 54 for 446 yards to go with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Brees tied Johnny Unitas’s record of throwing a touchdown pass in 47 straight games. Rodgers was 31 of 41 for 319 yards to go with four touchdowns and one interception.
2007 was the last time the Saints started a season 0-4. “Yeah, it's disappointing,” Brees said after the game. “It stinks. But I know the type of guys we have. I know the direction we're headed. It's all very positive. So despite where we're at right now, I believe this team is going to do something."
The Saints ground game is another story as once again it was anemic. New Orleans managed just 45 yards on the ground on 19 carries. Running backs Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram had five carries a piece and Pierre Thomas has nine. Sproles finished with 20 yards, Thomas had 14 yards and Ingram picked up 11.
Wide Receiver Marques Colston had a big game hauling in nine catches for 153 yards and a touchdown. Joe Morgan had one catch but it was a big one as it was an 80-yard touchdown.
Green Bay finished with 421 yards of offense as the Saints defense struggled to put any pressure on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rogers, who was sacked eight times last week in the first half against Seattle, was never sacked by the Saints on Sunday.
The Saints remain the only team in the NFC without a win. Atlanta beat Carolina to improve to 4-0 and Tampa Bay lost at home to Washington on a game winning field goal before time expired. The Bucs and Panthers are 1-3.
No question the Saints defense will still be talked about this week in regards to their play but in my opinion the game wasn’t lost simply by their play. The Saints offense once again failed to capitalize on opportunities to score touchdowns. They also continued a disturbing trend of dropping passes. To me, there were three key moments the offense could have helped win the game and unfortunately they all came in the second half.
First, in the opening possession of the second half the Saints looked to continue the momentum they established late in the first half when they scored a touchdown to make it 21-14 Packers. Brees directed a drive that put the team first and ten at the Green Bay 11 yard line. Then three straight passes were called, two of them were incomplete, receiver Lance Moore caught a third down pass to the Packers 3 yard line. Hartley then made a 21-yard field goal but the Packers were called for a personal foul giving the Saints a second shot at a touchdown. First down Saints at the Packers 1 yards line. Inexplicably three more passes ensued. On first down, running back Mark Ingram lost a yard on a quick pass in the flat. The next two downs saw Brees unable to connect with receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jimmy Graham. New Orleans finished off the 15 play drive by settling for a 20-yard field goal so instead of tying the game the Saints were down 21-17.
I don’t care who the quarterback is and how many records the Saints offense has broken in the past. You have to be able to get a yard in football. One yard on the ground and the way this team calls plays you have to assume they either have no confidence in the running game or simply prefer not to run the ball. Why get cute. Punch it in, be physical and set the tone.
The Saints also at the start of the fourth quarter got the ball down to Green Bay 9-yard line and settled for a 27-yard field goal.
Secondly, we go to the 10:46 mark of the fourth quarter. Saints are up 27-21 down on their own 9-yard line. Last week against Kansas City, a similar situation happened where the Saints passed and didn’t run and later in the week interim head coach Aaron Kromer admitted they should have run the ball. Well they have did it again as the Saints chose to throw. Brees missed connecting with Moore, Colston and Graham. I couldn’t believe it. Not only was I beside myself that once again they didn’t run the football, but you took no time off the clock while not gaining a yard. So you gave Green Bay plenty of time to try and take the lead and by not moving the chains at all, you assured the Packers of good field position on the punt. Sure enough the Packers began their drive at their own 43-yard line and scored the go-ahead touchdown 7 plays later.
Thirdly, the Saints valiantly responded on the next drive to put themselves in position to win the game with a late field goal as Brees marched the team down the field. On third and four at the Green Bay 25-yard line however, running back Darren Sproles couldn’t catch a pass that would have given the Saints a first down and continued the drive. The pass was catchable and judging by Sproles’ reaction a pass he knows he should have caught. When followed was the field goal situation where Hartley made a 43-yard field goal but then missed a 48-yarder wide left. No telling if Sproles makes that catch ensures the Saints score a touchdown or not but another set of down at the very least could have maybe made the kick shorter at some point.
The Saints will try for their first win in primetime next week as they host San Diego on Sunday night. The Chargers hammered the Chiefs 37-20. San Diego forced six Kansas City turnovers in the game.