Real football is finally back. So what did we learn in Green Bay’s 42-34 Thursday night win over New Orleans?
1. The Packers offense doesn’t need OTAs. Or player-only workouts. This looked like Green Bay’s fifth playoff game. If anything, Aaron Rodgers looked sharper than last year.
With rookie Randall Cobb a huge factor (two touchdowns) and Jermichael Finley healthy again, there just aren’t many defenses that can match up with the Packers’ ridiculous depth.
2. Cobb explodes with the ball. It’s like he presses the turbo button. He’s going to make Packers receiver James Jones irrelevant.
3. The only way to stop Green Bay’s offense is to pressure Rodgers. That didn’t happen Thursday. The Packers offensive line dominated. Green Bay’s lines really controlled the game on both sides of the ball.
Take away the superlative quarterback play and special teams fun. The two teams canceled each other out there. The difference was up front. The Saints couldn’t get a yard when they needed it, whether they passed or ran. This has been a recurring problem for the organization.
4. New Orleans’ free agent pickups Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin were total non-factors. The Saints lack of depth at defensive end showed up with Will Smith gone. They couldn’t get off the field on third downs because they couldn’t create pressure.
5. Rodgers was scary good in the first half. He hits the flashy plays like connecting with Jordy Nelson up the sideline with pressure in his face. Rodgers also makes the under-the-radar plays by throwing the ball in just the right spot to convert a third-and-seven.
6. Sean Payton has to be happy with his backfield. The line couldn’t get push in key moments, but Mark Ingram showed power at times. Pierre Thomas made typical Pierre Thomas plays. Darren Sproles already looks like a big upgrade from Reggie Bush.
It was telling that Sproles was in the two minute drill with the game on the line. He’s already a huge part of the offense (7 catches, 75 yards.) It’s almost comical watching a linebacker like A.J. Hawk try to cover him.
(Oh, and Sproles had a 72-yard punt return score.)
7. Six Saints receivers had four catches. Brees had a vintage performance, helping the team rack up 477 yards against a good defense. There was a lot to like for New Orleans.
8. James Starks looks bigger and better this year. (12 carries, 57 yards and a TD.) He split carries with Ryan Grant, but Starks should get more touches long-term if he can handle pass protection.