Green Bay, Wis. – Coach Dennis Allen said it was one that his team let slip away, and not a single member of the New Orleans Saints organization would cast a dissenting vote.
The Saints (2-1) couldn't cash out a 17-0, fourth-quarter lead against the Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field, and the 18-17 loss left a sting that permeated the locker room.
There were enough breakdowns across the board to prevent victory.
OFFENSE: Losing quarterback Derek Carr was a monumental blow to the team and offense. New Orleans punted four consecutive possessions after Carr departed with a shoulder injury he sustained in the third quarter, and on the team's final possession, kicker Blake Grupe pushed right the potential game-winning field goal with 70 seconds left. Carr (13 of 18, 103 yards and a touchdown) was solid enough while he was on the field, but the amount of punishment he has taken – sacked three times Sunday, and 11 total times this season – caught up against the Packers. The protection issues that have been glaring have to be fixed. All things considered, Jameis Winston (10 of 16 for 101 yards) was fine in relief, and put the team in position to win the game. But there seemed to be a noticeable dip in emotion with Carr's injury. The running game (22 carries for 77 yards) provided some balance, but the Saints again failed to score a touchdown on one red zone opportunity, and it showed up on the scoreboard.
DEFENSE: Eighteen points allowed usually is a pretty solid day, but not when they're all allowed in the fourth quarter and you're the unit that has been charged with leading the team. New Orleans needed stops on defense, and couldn't get them when it mattered most. A couple of pass interference penalties by defensive backs Alontae Taylor and Isaac Yiadom put Green Bay in position to score once, and the Packers simply made a couple of nice plays to capitalize on the second touchdown drive. The pass rush was able to get Packers quarterback Jordan Love out of his comfort zone for three quarters, but New Orleans couldn't get him on the turf late (his mobility was a nuisance to the Saints) and the coverage didn't hold up as well as hoped. Taylor had a great game, and Lonnie Johnson Jr. came up with an interception, but when the Saints needed a big play late, it wasn't there.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Rashid Shaheed’s 76-yard punt return for a touchdown was electrifying and crowd-silencing. It was a huge spark. But the fact is, Grupe is on the roster because he's expected to make 46-yarders. It was the first game-winning situation that the rookie kicker has been in, and it wasn't a successful one. The fact that he had been perfect (5 for 5) on field goals before that is pushed into the shadows if a clutch kick is missed, and a clutch one was missed Sunday. He obviously has the ability, and the NFL is the kind of league where another opportunity will present itself. Grupe will have chances to atone.
Check out the game action from the New Orleans Saints game against the Green Bay Packers in Week 3 of the 2023 NFL season.