Green Bay Packers defense falls victim to New Orleans voodoo


It was another night to forget for the Green Bay Packers 32nd-ranked overall run defense Sunday night against Drew Brees, Mark Ingram and the New Orleans Saints.

Coming off a strong four-game showing against the Bears, Vikings, Dolphins and Panthers, it felt like the defense might actually be getting the hang of things in Green Bay.

Even with newly-extended cornerback Sam Shields sidelined due to injury, the Packers seemed to have the depth to stave off the passing attack of opposing teams. Depth began to show itself and invigorated Packers fans.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees throws a touchdown during the third quarter of a game against the Green Bay Packers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated Packers 44-23. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports photograph

However, the Saints and Drew Brees seemed to pick apart a passing defense (sans starting CB Shields and SS Morgan Burnett) that had been making opposing QBs look silly all season long.

Coming into Sunday night’s tilt with the Saints, the Packers defense was holding opposing QBs to a league low 74.9 QB rating. That was an average number running through the likes of Russell Wilson, Geno Smith, Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler, Christian Ponder, Ryan Tannehill and Cam Newton.

Yes, that list contains a few outliers. But overall, Wilson, Stafford, Cutler and Newton are not QBs to sneer at.

Stats don’t tell the whole story, however.

The Packers have been giving up their fair share of yards, on the season … mostly on the ground. The defense also notched their fair share of interceptions and fumbles.

Brees was not stagnated by the opposing QB rating magic that had worked on so many before him. No, instead, the Green Bay Packers played their least complete defensive game to date in 2014, falling victim to New Orleans voodoo from the first snap.

Brees was never NOT in control of the Saints offense. He marched up and down the field with ease, never forced to punt and never turning the ball over (until late in the fourth quarter on a RB fumble, in garbage time).

The Packers run defense had NO answer to power back Mark Ingram – and in turn, the secondary was fooled and gutted by the play action big plays. The Saints unlocked the secret to the Packers surging secondary: run the ball down their throats.

With no one able to make a stop at the line of scrimmage, Ingram was man a possessed heading into the second level. With no one willing to make the open field tackle in the secondary, Ingram made his home in Packers’ territory.

It was a sight for sore eyes for Saints fans, desperate for a win after suffering grueling defeats on the road. Coming home to the Super Dome and finding out exactly what they had in big back Ingram – must have been a welcome revelation.

For Packers fans? It was an entirely different story. Ingram single-handedly crushed the Packers hopes and dreams on Sunday night and everyone knows it.

With Ingram running free, Brees was free to slow the pass rush and find his open receivers down the field for huge gains off of play action.

Three times the Saints loaded into a strong run formation and twice the Packers were gutted on 45-plus yard heaves off play action from it; one to Kenny Stills on the opening Saints drive which set up the tying touchdown, after the Packers gained momentum quickly.

New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram ran all over the Packers Sunday night. Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports photograph

The second went to Brandin Cooks on a bomb Hail Mary heave that wound up in friendly hands, even after being manned by both Tramon Williams and Davon House on the play. Even the famous NASCAR package was a bust against Brees, mainly because all of the Packers linebackers were manhandled by an able Saints offensive line.

There were some key plays where the pass rush hit home – namely Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews edging the tackles and chasing down an agile Brees. But for the most part – he was unfazed all night long, bending the Packers defense to his will and that of his superman running back.

The loss of Shields and Burnett in the secondary really hurt the Packers, I won’t disagree with that.

But the run defense killed us. The secondary depth should be enough to hold; it’s been doing so for weeks. It all starts up front on the defensive line. If they aren’t able to get this thing fixed (or at least the leak plugged), the Packers defense will take on more water than they will be able to bail out.

For a championship caliber mindset – the reality of it all is unsettling.