GREEN BAY – The Packers couldn’t have started much better but couldn’t have finished much worse.
A dominant second half by the Saints on Sunday at Lambeau Field handed Green Bay a disheartening 26-17 loss in backup quarterback Brett Hundley’s first NFL start.
Green Bay got a 46-yard touchdown run from rookie running back Aaron Jones on the game’s opening drive, two interceptions on the Saints’ first two possessions, and a scrambling TD run by Hundley himself to take a 14-7 halftime lead.
But the Packers couldn’t sustain it, as the Saints didn’t punt in the second half – scoring two touchdowns and two field goals – and Green Bay’s offense managed just four first downs and three points after intermission.
“I’m particularly disgusted with the second half,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said immediately after his team fell to 4-3, one game back of the 5-2 Vikings in the NFC North as Green Bay hits its bye week. “When your performance drops off the way it does … disappointed, just in the way we played.
“I thought we had our best week of preparation, and it’s a crying shame it didn’t show up for four quarters. In the second half, the thing turned.”
It certainly did, as New Orleans QB Drew Brees got the Saints into an effective run-pass balance after the two early picks.
Brees finished 27-of-38 for 331 yards and a TD for an 84.4 passer rating, while running back Mark Ingram pounded away for 105 yards on 22 carries with a score. Fellow running back Alvin Kamara (107 yards from scrimmage) and receiver Ted Ginn (seven catches, 141 yards) did plenty of damage, too.
On the other side, Hundley didn’t manage anywhere near that kind of production despite 17 carries for 131 yards and the rushing TD from Jones.
Green Bay’s offensive frustrations began early in the game, actually, with a pair of failed third-and-shorts after the two interceptions. It led to a 4-for-11 day overall on third down, as Hundley was just 12-of-25 for 87 yards (39.9 rating) and no pass-catcher for the Packers had more than 17 yards.
“Third down was kind of our Achilles heel all day,” McCarthy said, taking the blame for never getting Hundley in any kind of rhythm offensively.
“It was a challenge I didn’t meet today. He didn’t get comfortable in the pocket, and that’s my responsibility.”
Hundley, who also scrambled for 44 yards, said that’s not exactly fair.
“You can’t put that on Coach,” he said. “That’s something I have to take care of myself. The O-line blocked their butts off today. We need to get better from here.”
Hundley added the Saints didn’t make any notable defensive adjustments in the second half, though they did hold Jones to three yards or less on five of seven second-half attempts.
Penalties also hurt in the field-position game, but Hundley and the Packers didn’t try much in the way of downfield passes until a late deep ball was picked off by Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro.
Green Bay’s one productive second-half drive featured a 21-yard run by Jones and a helpful personal foul on New Orleans, setting up a field goal to give the Packers a 17-16 lead early in the fourth quarter.
But a three-and-out, followed by the interception, was all the Packers mustered as the Saints were taking control and kept scoring.
“Our passing game, we can sit here and pick it apart all you want,” a clearly perturbed McCarthy said. “Let’s just blame it on the head coach today.” Complete game coverage: