The NFL’s opening game between the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers lived up to it’s billing as a high-scoring shootout between two of the leagues best offenses.
Ten total touchdowns, 876 yards of total offense, and two amazing special teams plays highlighted a memorable contest — but the Saints fell short in a few key areas.
Even with the mistakes the Saints nearly came back and tied the game.
Brees guided the offense down to the 1-yard line with three seconds left, but Green Bay stopped rookie running back Mark Ingram up the middle to end the game.
Looking back the few missed opportunities made all the difference, starting with a fumble in the first quarter.
After the Packers marched down the field and scored with relative ease, on a back shoulder touchdown pass to Greg Jennings, the Saints offense began their first offensive series.
Rookie Mark Ingram ran the ball on first down for three yards, which was then followed by a twelve yard completion to receiver Marques Colston.
As soon as he nabbed the pass and began to run he was met by Packer safety Nick Collins. who forced the fumble after strategically placing his helmet on the ball during the tackle.
The Packers recovered on their own 36 yard line and took only three minutes to get back into the end zone to take a 14-0 lead on another Aaron Rodgers pass, this time to Jordy Nelson.
Next red zone efficieny was very poor throughout the game for New Orleans, not a common problem for the normally prolific Saints offense.
Against the Packers the Saints were a dismal 1 of 5 (20%) in the red zone during potential scoring situations.
Five times they were inside the 20 yard line and only managed to score only once, a play-action pass to tight end Jimmy Graham late in the fourth quarter.
That’s a terrible stat to have regardless of who you are playing against, but more so when it’s against a potent Packers offense that was a perfect 4 of 4 in the red zone.
The Saints have to make vast improvement in this category to be successful this season.
Under head coach Sean Payton I expect them to get it fixed quickly and don’t see it becoming a regular occurrence.
Red zone efficiency leads right into the next problem area, short yardage and goal line offense.
New Orleans drafted Alabama running back Mark Ingram in the first round to be their power runner in short yardage situations.
They also traded fragile running back Reggie Bush to the Dolphins, who was terrible when it came to picking up the tough yards on the ground.
Improvement in this area was thought to come quickly, and in some ways it did, but the culprit may not have been the running backs not getting the job done but with Payton’s play calling.