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By the Numbers: Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints

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Saints fans had much to cheer about Sunday night, as the Saints defeated Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers 23-44 in front of a Superdome crowd of 73,146 paid attendees. Today, we break down how the home team did, by the numbers.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints Week 8 Performance:

(Packers 23, Saints 44)

For only the third time in NFL history, neither team punted the ball during a regular season game.  As a whole, the Saints played an impressive game of football.  But how did the individual parts look last night?

Offense
(Time of Possession: NO - 31:39, GB - 28:21)

The Saints seemed to return to form offensively, with the added bonus of having -- and using -- a reliable ground attack.  Despite missing center Jonathan Goodwin, bulldozer Khiry Robinson, and screen king Pierre Thomas to injury, New Orleans garnered over 300 yards passing, and almost 500 yards of total offense.  And they did it with a very limited Jimmy Graham on the field.  The star tight end was clearly still hampered by his shoulder injury, though he seemed to put more effort into blocking with only his left arm than we have often seen from him when fully healthy.  And about the time the Packers (and everyone else) had decided Graham was nothing more than a decoy in the passing game, Brees took advantage of Green Bay's folly.

While many Rodgers fans and/or Saints haters want to attribute the final outcome of the game to the Packers QB tweaking his hamstring, the three aerial touchdowns in the second half were significant.  New Orleans scored four times in each half, though the game turned dramatically in favor of the Saints when the offense was able to finish drives with touchdowns during the final two quarters.

It also helped that kicker Shayne Graham not only made his five extra point attempts, but was able to keep the Saints on pace with the Packers in the first half by successfully completing all three of his field goals (31, 29, and 37 yards).

The one Saints turnover came when Erik Lorig was asked to carry the ball, for the second time in his career, during garbage time to run out the clock.  His fumble didn't impact the game, however, as Green Bay had no hope of recovering from their 21-point deficit with just over a minute left in the game.  And his performance as a blocker in both the running and passing game made up for a meaningless fumble.  Will he be able to keep it up, and show everyone why the Saints had him stashed on the active roster for seven weeks?

Offense

TD’s

FG’s

Yards

1st Downs

3rd Down Conv

Sacked

Fmbl / Lost

Int

First Half

1

3/3

238

16

3/5 (60%)

2 (9 yds)

0

0

Second Half

4

0

257

12

3/5 (60%)

0

1/1

0

Total

5

3/3

495

28

6/10 (60%)

2 (9 yds)

1/1

0

The Saints won the turnover battle, leaned on the running game, and found the style of passing game fans have been missing.  

Defense
The New Orleans defense looked like it would lose the game during the first half, allowing almost 300 yards in just two quarters.  A 70-yard touchdown by Packers receiver Randall Cobb in the first two minutes of the game had some Saints fans throwing in the towel before the offense had even touched the ball.  Luckily, the team wasn't nearly as demoralized.

Through the rest of the half, and almost the rest of the game, the New Orleans defense was able to hold Green Bay to field goals.  They didn't look as good as that on the field, however.  Some measure of their success can be attributed to the fans at the Superdome, creating an environment which made it difficult for even the veteran Rodgers to orchestrate his offense, and causing Green Bay to burn through timeouts early in order to avoid being penalized for delaying the game.

It would be silly to claim that the Packers quarterback wasn't hindered at all after he came up at the end of a run with what appeared to be a hamstring issue.  The New Orleans defense was able to sack Rodgers three times in the second half, and added two interceptions.  But it is difficult to know how much of their performance was due to the hamstring issue, and how much was due to halftime adjustments and other factors for which they should be credited.  The Saints also got to backup Packers QB Matt Flynn near the end of the fourth quarter, and recovered his fumble.

Corey White, recently maligned by many fans who have been disappointed in the New Orleans secondary this season, not only intercepted Rodgers once in the fourth quarter, but punched the ball away from the receiver and into David Hawthorne's waiting hands for the first interception of the game. White was also credited with two passes defensed and four solo tackles.

Kenny Vaccaro led the defense in tackles with ten (8 solo), followed by Curtis Lofton with 9 (5 solo) and Bush with 8 (6 solo, 1 for a loss) and a pass defensed.  Cameron Jordan was credited with two sacks (15 yards), as was Kasim Edebali (9 yards).  The rookie from Germany also forced the only Packers fumble, which was recovered by Parys Haralson.

Other than standing around and watching Aaron Rodgers trot into the end zone for the slowest 14-yard rushing touchdown in recent memory, the Saints defense seemed to buckle down in the second half.  If they can keep that kind of production up for the rest of the season, even without opposing QB's pulling their hamstrings, the Saints defense just might do enough to keep Drew Brees competitive for a game or two in January.

Defense

TD’s
allowed

FG’s
allowed

Yds
allowed

1st Downs
allowed

3rd Down Conv.
allowed

Sacks

Fumbles
Forced /Rec

Int

Points
Scored

First Half

1

3/3

292

11

1/4 (25%)

1 (10 yds)

0

0

0

Second Half

1

0

199

12

0/3 (0%)

3 (14 yds)

1/1

2

0

Total

2

3/3

491

23

1/7 (14%)

4 (24 yds)

1/1

2

0


The New Orleans defense allowed the Packers to match the Saints offense with four scores in the first half, but a few extra sacks and a couple of interceptions in the second half took some of the pressure off of Brees and company.

Passing
The New Orleans offense Sunday night was something wonderful for Saints fans to behold.  Drew Brees seemed to cycle through favorite receivers, starting with Kenny Stills, who did a great job of both running routes and stretching the field.  He was only targeted four times during the game, and caught all four of them in the first quarter, including a 45-yarder (41 through the air) on which he was downed just four yards shy of the end zone to set up a Brandin Cooks left end touchdown run.

Cooks was the only receiver Brees targeted in all four quarters of the game.  In addition to his four-yard TD run, the rookie first-round draft pick caught six of his seven targets for 94 yards, including a 50-yard (47 through the air) touchdown reception the only time the ball came his way in the third quarter.

Especially after Graham missed his only first-half target, in the first quarter, the star tight end seemed to be little more than the decoy we saw in Detroit.  However, his five (of five) catches in the third quarter, capped by a 22-yard reception in the end zone, gave the Saints a 14-point lead and marked Graham as Drew's second-favorite target for the game.  Graham was not targeted again after his third-quarter touchdown.

Marques Colston (49 yards) and Travaris Cadet (40 yards) rounded out the five-man receiving squad, each catching four of their five targets from Brees.  Mark Ingram caught one of his two targets, while Erik Lorig, Austin Johnson, and Josh Hill each caught the only ball to fly their way.

The offensive line did a great job protecting Brees, which combined with a successful running game to help the Saints quarterback score three touchdowns and a 100% completion rating in the second half.  Despite the fact that his 311 yards were only the fifth-highest total for him in seven games this season, this was the first time he has managed three touchdowns in a game (much less a single half).  He also racked up a 138.4 Passer Rating this weekend.  Continuing that kind of performance should keep Saints fans happy, particularly if the defense can continue to step up and keep from giving the games away.

Passing

Yards

Attempts

Complete

Yds/Att

Int

Sacked

1st Downs

TD’s

First Half

187

21

16 (76%)

8.9

0

2 (9 yds)

10

0

Second Half

124

11

11 (100%)

11.3

0

0

5

3

Total

311

32

27 (84%)

9.7

0

2 (9 yds)

15

3

Drew Brees was mostly comfortable in the pocket, accurate with his passes, and spreading the ball around throughout the game.  He was also able to count on his sure-handed receivers, and avoided making the costly mistakes which have cost New Orleans games in the (recent) past.

Rushing
Mark Ingram is finally running like the Heisman Trophy winner Sean Payton was hoping for when the Saints moved back up into the first round to draft him in 2011.  Whether he has finally been healthy this year, is extra motivated during the final year of his rookie contract, or finally has a blocking scheme he can run behind, the polarizing RB has been putting up some of the best numbers in the league.  Despite recently coming off of surgery, required after he played through a broken hand last month, Ingram had exceptional ball security as he pounded out 172 yards and one touchdown through 24 attempts (7.2 YPC) on the ground.  Only one player in the league -- Rashad Jennings, 176 yards -- has had a better game on the ground this year.

Ingram was the New Orleans running game on Sunday night.  Other than Erik Lorig (2 att, 3 yds, 1 fumble) and Austin Johnson (2 att, 1 yd), no other player carried the ball more than once.  Those three runs were by Cadet (7yds), Brees (6 yds) and Cooks (4 yds, 1 TD).

If the Saints can keep putting forth a solid game on the ground, Brees and his receivers should continue to have a much easier time making plays happen through the air.  And if Sean Payton continues to deliver the sort of balanced attack he has been promising for the last couple of seasons, this New Orleans offense may be able to carry all but the worst of defenses into the playoffs.

Rushing

Yards

Attempts

Yds/Carry

Longest Run

Fmbl / Lost

1st Downs

TD’s

First Half

60

13

4.6

14 yds (M. Ingram)

0

5

1

Second Half

133

18

7.4

28 yds (M. Ingram)

1/1

6

1

Total

193

31

6.2

28 yards

1/1

11

2

After missing a month with a broken hand, Mark Ingram ran his way back into the hearts of Saints fans everywhere.  A solid offensive line is to thank for much of his success, but he has been running with the kind of dedication and ball security that could earn someone a label as one of the best running backs in the league.