Sep 22, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints middle linebacker Curtis Lofton (50) talks to defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in the second quarter of their game against the Arizona Cardinals at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Let’s face it, Aaron Rodgers does not throw interceptions. In fact, he’s only turned the ball over one time all year. Through the Green Bay Packers‘ four-game winning streak that the New Orleans Saints hope to snap on Sunday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the All-Pro QB is on fire, completing 71 percent of his passes for 977 yards, 13 touchdowns and zero picks.
With a 117.3 passer rating, 18 scores and 1,674 yards through seven games, Rodgers is off to one of the best starts of his illustrious career. Can he be stopped? I wouldn’t say stopped, but he can be slowed down, and since nobody is perfect, he is still prone to mistakes.
So here’s where we get to the run defense. The Black and Gold rank No. 11 overall in the league in rushing defense, allowing 103.2 yards per game on the ground. RB DeMarco Murray of the Dallas Cowboys is destroying everybody this season and is even on pace to surpass the 2,000-yard mark with a legitimate shot at breaking Eric Dickerson‘s single-season record.
With that said, and excluding the Dallas game, the Saints would only be allowing 85.8 yards on the ground, which would fall into the five to six overall range. Through two contests in the Superdome this season, New Orleans has allowed an average of only 62.5 rushing yards, which is exemplary.
When Rob Ryan‘s unit hosts the Packers’ offense on Sunday night, they will be facing one of the toughest runners they’ve seen all year in Eddie Lacy. The former Alabama standout is averaging 4.0 yards per rush on 92 carries. His touches are low compared to his rookie season, averaging only 13 per game. However, I do think Green Bay will look for balance in the run and pass against the Saints.
During Thursday’s press conference following practice, head coach Sean Payton spoke on Lacy. “He’s a guy, and especially if he gets some space and he gets some momentum, he’s got good balance and vision. Aaron (Rodgers) does a real good job at recognizing the looks that he’s seeing defensively. At some point from a defensive standpoint, you’re beginning to play that game of coverage and then being able to stop the run, and then having to stop the pass,” Payton said.
“It’s something that as you watch it’ll be interesting to see. They’re committed to running the football, and I think he’s (Lacy) given them that — the yards, the yards after contact — he’s real good with the football in has hands.” If the Saints can be on point with their recognition on defense, it will make it a bit tougher for the Packers’ near-flawless QB.
Recognizing the run and stopping it will force Rodgers to throw the ball, so recognizing the pass could possibly result in more mistakes by Green Bay’s gunslinger if the proper coverage and pressure is applied. Doing so could help the Saints’ chances at winning the turnover battle, which seems like an impossible task this season. I’ll be looking for big run-stoppers like Curtis Lofton and Kenny Vaccaro to show up.
Of course, Rodgers on the field can be detrimental for anybody he faces, but so can Drew Brees. It will be difficult to accomplish, but New Orleans’ defense must not let him find a game-long rhythm, so proper recognition is key. A shootout is likely, but if the Black and Gold can stop the run and figure out the pass, it will make things much easier if the team wishes to go to bed Sunday night with a third win in the books.