The phrase Dezman Moses used was almost too funny.
“I cradled it toward my chest,” Moses said of the Darren Sproles fumble he forced and recovered on a fourth-quarter kickoff.
That was what safety M.D. Jennings did on the Hail Mary pass in Seattle, too, but to no avail. This time, there was no replay review because just under seven minutes remained in the game and the Packers were out of challenges.
Moments after the Packers had taken a 28-27 lead at Lambeau Field on Sunday, Moses laid his helmet on the ball and dislodged it from Sproles. Moses said he recovered it right away, which would have given the Packers a chance on a replay review if they’d been able to challenge it.
“Oh yeah, it came out, it was right next to me,” Moses said of the ball, which everyone but the officials saw pop out before Sproles was down. “I thought it was pretty clear. I looked up at the jumbotron, hoping they saw what I did, but we just had to go on to the next play.”
The turnover could have changed the game dramatically, but the Packers just can’t seem to get one lately, no matter how hard they try. In Seattle, safety Jerron McMillian’s fourth-quarter interception was nullified by a dubious roughing-the-passer penalty on Erik Walden. Then, of course, there was Jennings on the final play.
Earlier in the fourth quarter Sunday, with the Saints backed up on their own 9-yard line, Drew Brees’ short pass was deflected up into the air. Both Green Bay’s Tramon Williams and Morgan Burnett had a chance to intercept it, but they ran into each other and no one caught it. Williams was visibly upset, throwing up his arms in exasperation at the missed opportunity.
“No doubt about it. We were definitely trying to get a turnover at that point,” Williams said. “It was the perfect opportunity, perfect field position, and that was mainly my reaction to it, just because I know we really needed it at that point. It would have been perfect for our offense out there. Maybe we would have scored ourselves, I don’t know.”
For a defense that has thrived on turnovers for so long, the drought is suddenly eight quarters and counting. It’s not for a lack of effort, certainly.
“It was a bang-bang play,” Williams said. “The guys that we have in this secondary, once the ball went up in the air, we both probably were looking for it and we didn’t see each other. Those things happen.
“I’d rather have two guys run into each other going for the ball than have two guys looking at each other and watch it fall.”
One way to make amends: For a while, it looked as though cornerback Sam Shields would be one of the goats in a kick-in-the-gut loss. It was Shields who let Joseph Morgan get behind him in the third quarter for an 80-yard TD pass, giving the Saints their first lead of the game.
Shields appeared to be looking for safety help over the top, but he took responsibility for the gaffe, one of few so far in what has been a strong start to Shields’ third season.
“It was not a miscommunication. It was all on me, looking in the backfield,” Shields said. “Things like that, we can’t have. Just don’t let it happen again.”
Shields was spared some grief when New Orleans kicker Garrett Hartley missed a 48-yard field goal with 2:49 left. Hartley was forced to re-try the kick after he made a 43-yarder, but a holding penalty on the Saints (and subsequent offsides on the Packers) pushed the second attempt back five yards.
The holding call on New Orleans was on tight end David Thomas, hooking Shields as he came off the corner to try to block the kick.
Saving a teammate: Speaking of goats, defensive lineman B.J. Raji’s personal foul penalty on a third-quarter field goal gave the Saints a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
“That was completely on me,” Raji said. “I lost my cool. I can’t do that being a leader of this defense. Things happen, and I didn’t agree with it, but there’s better ways to handle it than putting my team in jeopardy.”
Fortunately, the defense held and forced another field goal, as Burnett stopped Mark Ingram for a 1-yard loss on first down, Brees overthrew Marques Colston on a fade on second down, and Williams broke up a quick slant to tight end Jimmy Graham on third down.
Raji gave Williams a big bear hug as the defense left the field, and the four points lost for the Saints proved huge, obviously.
“I had to run and hug Tramon because he really saved me technically,” Raji said. “I put us in a bad position there getting that personal foul. It’s an emotional game, I have to learn to control my emotions, but that’s why it’s also a team game. My teammates stepped up for me, and I’ll do the same thing.”
New defensive package: The Packers unveiled a new defensive look in the first half Sunday that featured seven defensive backs on the field. Five defensive backs is called “nickel,” six is “dime.” Seven? They call it “dollar.”
Williams said the defensive coaches came up with the package mainly because of two players, Sproles and Graham. The Packers had a hard time handling those two as receivers in last year’s game.
“Last year we watched the film and Sproles did a number on us by himself, and it was mainly because of a matchup issue,” Williams said. “We didn’t want that to happen. We brought in a few extra guys, speedy guys who can stay up with him. Hopefully, we continue to keep that package in.”
The package had to be scrapped after Jennings, a safety, left the game with a shoulder injury in the second quarter. The dime was used more the rest of the game, so it’s hard to tell how well the plan would have worked.
Last year, Sproles had seven catches for 75 yards on offense. This year, he had just five catches for 44 yards, but he did have a receiving TD. Additional game coverage - Packers vs. Saints