In what could have been a preview of the 2020 NFC Championship Game, the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers outdueled the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees, though the game was really decided by a play that neither player was a part of.
Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.
STORY OF THE GAME
Taysom Hill — the Saints' backup quarterback/pet project — put the ball on the ground on a designed run play late in the second half, turning it over and handing the Packers a chance to jump out to a lead that was ultimately too much for New Orleans to peg back.
Rodgers once again proved that his hard count is one of the biggest beneficiaries of a COVID-world with no noise from fans, doubling his ability to generate free plays for his offense by baiting defenders into mistakes at the line of scrimmage.
Rodgers has continued his incredibly strong start to the season and did so with no Davante Adams this week. Rodgers still had an average depth of target of 10.3 yards downfield and made a couple of critical plays, including not falling for a coverage the Saints ran that put safety Malcolm Jenkins right underneath Rodgers' intended hot route off a blitz.
Brees went some way towards answering critics of his arm strength, showing that he at least still has the ability to fit a pass into a tight window with some zip, but his average depth of target finished under 5 yards downfield. Right now, the entire Saints offense is designed around Alvin Kamara breaking tackles after the catch.
Brees passed for almost 300 yards and had three passing touchdowns, but 63.9% of his passes were aimed short of the first-down markers, and 19 of his 36 attempts in the game didn't clear 5 yards downfield from the line of scrimmage.
That being said, the Saints' offense was still effective and dangerous despite being built on something seemingly so volatile and difficult to replicate, and it was Hill, not Brees, who put them in a hole they couldn't climb out of.
Kamara is a justifiably great weapon to build an offense around, and he racked up 135 receiving yards after the catch, breaking seven tackles on 13 catches. He had just six carries on the ground, but even they went for 58 yards.
Injury up front meant that Saints first-round rookie Cesar Ruiz played 48 snaps at right guard as the team reshuffled their linemen. Ruiz didn't allow any pressure but was helped significantly by a game plan that didn't involve many passes thrown deep or the ball held for a long time in the pocket.
Third-round tight end Adam Trautman played 31 snaps, catching both of the passes thrown his way for 17 yards and bringing up one first down. His run-blocking grade was not great, but he fared better in pass protection, though he was aided in the same way Ruiz was.
On defense, undrafted rookie defensive lineman Malcolm Roach saw 30 snaps for the Saints, including 18 pass-rushing snaps, but he was largely anonymous in the game and failed to register any pressure.
The Packers didn't feature much in the way of rookie contributions. Undrafted rookie linebacker Krys Barnes played 16 snaps as injuries forced some depth onto the field. He had three solo tackles and three assists, two of which were defensive stops, but he also suffered a couple of losses.
Seventh-round rookie edge rusher Jonathan Garvin played 15 snaps, 13 of which came as a pass-rusher. He didn't register any pressure on those plays.
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