The Green Bay Packers lost their season opener to the New Orleans Saints in an embarrassing fashion, falling 38-3. The Pack was outplayed in all facets of the game and truly didn’t do very much well.
The Packers still have 16 games remaining on their schedule and this was just one loss, but the team cannot expect to play the way they did against the Saints and still win many football games.
Here are five things the Packers need to change from Sunday’s season opener if they hope to get back on track against Detroit in Week 2:
- Figure Out CB2
Kevin King had another rough outing on Sunday against the Saints, giving up too many completions including several big plays. The worst was a long touchdown pass to Deonte Harris. On another play, King collided with Chandon Sullivan which allowed Juwan Johnson to catch an easy touchdown pass.
King is far from the only reason the Packers defense played poorly, but it seemed like he picked up right where he left off in the NFC Championship Game, showing poor ball awareness, giving too much cushion to receivers underneath and giving up big plays.
The big question is can rookie first-round pick Eric Stokes do better? Stokes has a lot of speed but still is raw and working on his technique. Stokes is the future at CB2, but the Packers need to determine if he’s ready for that future to start now. The defense cannot allow this to be a vulnerability all season long.
- Get Back To the 2020 Version of the Offense
The Packers offense led the league in points scored in 2020 but that offense was nowhere to be seen against the Saints. It wasn’t just that Green Bay scored only three points, it was the style of offense that the Packers played.
Last season, the Packers featured lots of players in pre-snap motion, jet sweeps, quick releases on most passing plays and a willingness to take what the defense gives them and complete short passes to move the ball down the field. The Packers also stuck with their running game consistently throughout the 2020 campaign.
Against New Orleans, the Packers reverted to the 2019 style of offense or worse yet, the 2018 style. When Rodgers dropped back to pass, he held the ball for a long time, hoping to create a splash play deep downfield. On several occasions, Rodgers had quick, short passes available to receivers like Aaron Jones and Robert Tonyan, but he held the ball and tried to throw long.
New Orleans put in a defense designed specifically to take away the deep pass and the big play. The Packers failed to adjust and kept trying to force the ball downfield.
The Packers must get back to what made them so successful in 2020 on offense, be smarter with the ball and make adjustments when the defense tries to take something away.
- The Packers Need To Run the Ball More
The Packers also abandoned the running game far too quickly against the Saints. In the entire game, the Packers ran the ball only 15 times all game. Yes, falling behind early was part of the problem, but the Packers were still in this game midway through the third quarter but still failed to run the ball enough to even force the Saints to think about stopping the run.
Aaron Jones was unable to get going early, but then the Packers turned to A.J. Dillon in a subsequent series and Dillon had some success running up the middle. He led all Packers runners with 19 yards on just four carries, an average of 4.8-yards per rush. But after that initial series, the Packers stopped giving him the ball.
In fact, seven of the team’s 15 rushing attempts came after Jordan Love replaced Rodgers at quarterback and the game was completely out of reach.
Going forward, the Packers offense cannot afford to abandon the running game. Many plays in Matt LaFleur’s offense are based on play action, but if there is no threat of the running game, play action passes are less effective.
- The Packers Need More from Aaron Rodgers
The reigning NFL MVP was the first to admit he didn’t play well against the Saints. Simply put, the Packers need more from Rodgers if they are going to win football games this year. While it may be unrealistic to expect him to match last year’s outstanding totals, the Pack needs Rodgers to at least return to Pro Bowl form and be the leader he is capable of being.
The offseason was full of drama and a lot of scrutiny was placed on the relationship between Rodgers and the front office. The season has started so all of that must be put behind everybody and the focus should be exclusively on what Rodgers can do on the football field. We know he’s capable of playing a lot better than he did against New Orleans, now he needs to go out and do it.
- The Team Needs An Attitude Adjustment
After the game, LaFleur admitted his team didn’t seem ready to play against the Saints. It almost appeared as though the Packers expected to be able to easily march down the field on the Saints and win the game.
Are the Packers the better team than the Saints on paper? Sure. But in the NFL, nothing comes easy. The difference in talent between the best teams in the league and the also rans is not that great. The margin between winning and losing on a weekly basis is often very small, a play here or there being the difference between victory and defeat.
The Packers need to understand that they started the 2021 season at 0-0 (now 0-1) and that the 13-win campaigns from 2019 and 2020 have no bearing on this year’s record. This team cannot rely on reputation or talent alone to win football games, they must prepare and have the right attitude or all the talent in the world won’t get them a Super Bowl in what may be Rodgers’ final season in Green Bay.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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