Over the last seven years it has been a common occurrence for the defending Super Bowl Champions to open up on Thursday with a win, and the 2011 Packers were no exception. Aaron Rodgers and Company started where they left off last season, with a 42 to 34 win over the New Orleans Saints. The Packers came into Thursday’s game with a high octane offense, and a defense with a strong pass rush and the ability to make the big stop when called upon to, and all of it was on display in their thrilling goal line stand victory over the Saints.
Green Bay’s offense started the game off red hot, with Aaron Rodgers converting a 3rd and 12 pass to Donald Driver and proceeding to move it down the field and into the endzone with a Greg Jennings touchdown. Rodgers’ was 5 for 5 on the drive, and was almost perfect over the first half with two more touchdown passes to Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, Green Bay’s 2nd round draft pick from Kentucky this off season who would go on to have a huge night.
The Packers front office did receive some criticism for their selection of Cobb in the second round, however they were all justified Thursday night with Cobb’s touchdown catch and run, and his stunning 108 yard kick return touchdown in the 3rd quarter, which tied the NFL record for longest kick return.
New Orleans’ scat back and return man, Darren Sproles, also put on quite a show with a 72 yard punt return touchdown, and adding 7 receptions for 75 yards. Sproles may have erased all Saints fans’ memory of Reggie Bush with his performance Thursday.
The game appeared to be well in hand for Green Bay after building a 42 to 27 lead and sacking Brees on a third down play on the ensuing New Orleans drive, forcing them to punt. However, the Saints defense held strong and forced the Packers to punt allowing Brees to move the ball down the field and delivering his third touchdown pass of the night to tight end Jimmy Graham cutting the Packers’ lead to 8 points.
With the New Orleans defense standing strong again, Brees and the rest of the offense started their final drive on their own 20 with a minute and eight seconds to go. The Saints were able to move the ball rather quickly and effectively with no timeouts and faced a 3rd and 1 on the Packers 10 yard line with three seconds to go. Brees threw a pass to Darren Sproles in the middle of the endzone, which landed incomplete, however the referees threw a flag for pass interference on AJ Hawk, the Green Bay linebacker. It appeared that Hawk may have grazed Sproles when jumping over him to deflect the touchdown pass.
Even with the call the Packers defense was not rattled and on the next play they stopped a Mark Ingram run up the middle, preventing a touchdown and the possibility of a game tying two point conversion.
Green Bay may have allowed New Orleans to get back into the game, however lesser teams would not have been able to stand up to the Packers’ firepower on offense.