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Barry Hirstius

5 Biggest Saints “Winners and Losers” in 26-17 Win vs. the Packers

You better watch out. Don't look now, but the New Orleans Saints are in 1st Place overall and on top of the NFC South Division, for the first time since the 2013 season; which was right about this exact same time nearly 4 years ago. 

Earlier today in Green Bay, Wisconsin at the legendary (and rainy) Lambeau Field, the Saints won their 4th consecutive game in a 26-17 victory over the Packers; and as of this very moment might just be THE hottest team in the entire League.

After trailing the entire 1st half, the Saints "woke up" and absolutely DOMINATED the 2nd half on both sides of the football, eventually putting the Packers away by scoring on four of their five 2nd half possessions. They were so dominant, that they did not punt in the second half.

Additionally: the rapidly-rising Saints defense allowed just 65 total net yards in the second half after giving up 195 in the first half.

The Saints improved their overall record to (4-2), and now will return home for a pair of games against the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers; both of whom the Saints will likely be favored to beat, by the odds-makers out in Las Vegas.

With that in mind, here are the Saints News Network's 5 biggest "winners and losers" from today's impressive come-from-behind win for the 1st place, NFC South division-leading New Orleans Saints, over the Green Bay Packers.......

 

THE BIGGEST LOSERS

 

5. THE SAINTS RUN DEFENSE

Photo courtesy of Steve Apps, Madison Journal

The Saints run defense had a rather inglorious start to the game, as they surrendered chunks of yardage to the Packers RB's on the game's opening drive, including an Aaron Jones 46-yard TD run that saw him run untouched into the endzone only 2 minutes into the contest. Jones had a game-high 131 rushing yards, 70 of them on that Packers opening touchdown drive. 

They also struggled mightily with keeping back-up Packers QB Brett Hundley at bay, as the 3rd year youngster gave the run defense fits in containment, which included his 14-yard TD run down the sideline in the 2nd quarter to put Green Bay up 14-7 at halftime.

To their credit, the Saints run defense tightened up a lot in the 2nd half, but not before giving Saints fans watching at home some serious moments of trepidation.

 

4. TED GINN, PUNT RETURNER 

Photo courtesy of David Grunfeld, The New Orleans Times-Picayune

As a wide receiver, you could say that Ginn was a "winner"; since he had a fantastic day receiving with 141 yards on 7 catches — which was the 2nd most receiving yards in a game during his entire 11-year NFL career.

However.....

As a punt returner, Ginn succeeded with giving both the Saints coaching staff and fans watching from home, a virtual heart attack.

Ginn fumbled his 1st punt return attempt but got lucky when the official ruled that the Packers had committed fair catch interference, which gave the ball back to the Saints. Later on his 3rd punt return of the first half, he fumbled another punt, but was able to quickly recover because no Packers player was near him.

All in all, it was a good day for Ginn; but he needs to do a much better job (rain or no rain) with securing the football as a designated punt returner.

 

3. LARRY WARFORD, RIGHT GUARD

Photo courtesy of WWL TV New Orleans

For Saints veteran right guard Larry Warford, it had been a solid season up to this point; but earlier today at Lambeau Field, it all seemed to unravel just a bit.

First, Warford was flagged for a offensive holding call that nullified a nice Mark Ingram run early in the 2nd quarter. Then later in the quarter, Warford suffered an apparent abdominal strain and did not return at all to the line-up for the 2nd half.

His status is uncertain for the Saints' next game at the Superdome against the Chicago Bears; and for a Saints O-Line that had another solid and at times dominant performance against the Packers; Warford was the only O-Lineman that didn't experience personal success today on the hallowed grounds of the "Land of Lombardi".

 

2. HAU'OLI KIKAHA, DEFENSIVE END / EDGE RUSHER

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

Approximately an hour before the game, the team announced that 3rd year defensive end / edge pass rusher Hau'oli Kikaha was going to be a "healthy scratch" and would NOT play, as the defensive coaching staff decided to have rookie Al-Quadin Muhammad be the back-up in sub packages instead.

Immediately on Social Media, speculation began among both fans and observers with regard to his future with the team. Was he hurt? Was he in the "dog house" and being punished? Might he even be on the "trading block"?

It's hard to say what the team's plans for Kikaha might be moving forward; but his situation as of right now would seem to lend more credence to the report earlier this month by NFL Network reporter Ian Rappoport that Kikaha's days in a Saints uniform, could be numbered.

 

1.  KEN CRAWLEY, CORNERBACK

Photo courtesy of David Grunfeld, The New Orleans Times-Picayune

Without any doubt, today's biggest "loser" was 2nd-year cornerback Ken Crawley, who had a performance that had Saints fans everywhere YELLING at their TV's at home.

Early in the 1st half, Crawley picked up a pass interference penalty and then was flagged for defensive holding, on the very same series.

Then a few minutes later on the Packers' next possession, Crawley did the inexcusable; when instead of trying to TACKLE Hundley a few yards short of the goal line on a run down the sideline, he lazily and half-heartedly made a weak effort to throw a shoulder into Hundley -- but basically missed him instead.

Fortunately for him, he wasn't benched or pulled from the game; but his play was far below the otherwise improved level that he had been playing with overall, since Training Camp back in August. 

Crawley took a MAJOR STEP BACKWARDS today, and hopefully it's more a sign of IMMATURITY, rather than a lack of talent.

 

THE BIGGEST WINNERS

 

5. CRAIG ROBERTSON, WEAK SIDE LINEBACKER

(AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

For the 2nd straight game, Saints 7th year-veteran weak side linebacker Craig Robertson had an impactful performance for the rapidly-rising Saints defense.

A week removed from an unforgettable performance against Detroit where he had double-digit tackles (11 tackles: 4 solo, 7 assisted) to go with a sack and a forced fumble that he took away from Lions QB Matthew Stafford, Robertson had 7 more tackles against the Packers, including 2 of them for a loss.

Robertson just seemed to be exactly where the Saints needed him; and although he's not the most famous or flashiest guy in the world, Roberson just shows up "ready to play" each and every week, and it's the reason why he might be one of THE most underrated inside LB's in the entire NFL at the moment.

 

4. ALVIN KAMARA, RUNNING BACK

Photo courtesy of Steve Apps, Madison Journal

Gee, what a surprise.

Kamara makes his weekly appearance on this list for the 6th straight time, and it's because he's become such an indelible part of the team's offense both running and catching the football, that it's a given at this point.

Kamara finished with 9 carries for 57 yards along with 5 receptions for another 50 yards, for 107 yards worth of offense.

Kamara was an integral part of the Saints offense all afternoon, and he will continue to be (God willing) for a very long time into the forseeable future.

 

3. MARSHON LATTIMORE, CORNERBACK

Photo courtesy of Steve Apps, Madison Journal

A week after winning NFC Rookie Defensive Player of the Week following his phenomenal performance against the Lions that included his first-ever "Pick 6" TD, Lattimore was at it again today — as he "shut down" Packers top WR Davante Adams.

In the last 2 weeks alone: Lattimore has only allowed a 33.3% catch rate, has the "Pick 6" interception, 3 pass breakups, and a phenomenal 8.3 passer rating allowed; according to Pro Football Focus analyst Nathan Jahnke.

Let's face it: Lattimore might go down as one of the best Saints draft picks EVER, and the 21-year old is only going to continue to get better with each passing game.

The Saints might have hit the proverbial "jackpot" with this young man, and he alone is one of THE biggest reasons for New Orleans' early season success in 2017.

 

2. MARK INGRAM, RUNNING BACK

Photo courtesy of Steve Apps, Madison Journal

In what was easily his most impressive performance of the season thus far considering both the situations during the game as well as the obvious issue with the poor field conditions, Ingram ran with a toughness and an element of a can-do attitude that spread to everyone on the offense in the 2nd half.

He finished with 105 yards on 22 carries, and eclipsed 100 yards for a 2nd consecutive week.

But perhaps more importantly: Ingram gives the Saints offense a noticeable swagger and self-confidence; and for a young team that's still learning HOW to win: Ingram has now emerged (unexpectedly) as a TEAM LEADER.

 

1. DREW BREES, QUARTERBACK

Photo courtesy of Steve Apps, Madison Journal

Amazingly, Brees was well on his way initially to beating out Crawley for the biggest "loser" on this weekly list; after he threw back-to-back interceptions on each of the Saints' first 2 offensive drives — which fortunately for New Orleans, the Packers offense and Hundley were unable to take advantage of when they went 3-and-out and came away with no points after each turnover.

But of course, Drew Brees is Drew Brees; and he rebounded big-time in the 2nd half and was his usual razor-sharp self for the rest of the way; as he threw a TD pass to WR Brandon Coleman and then clinched the win by diving over the top of the goal line for a 1-yard TD with under 5 minutes remaining.

Brees finished with 27 completions out of 38 attempts for 331 yards, with one touchdown and an 84.4 passer rating; as he led the Saints (who were down by a score of 14-7 at halftime) to scores on 4 out of their 5 second half offensive possessions.

It will go down as yet just one more additional chapter in the legend of Drew Brees that will still be told many years from now; and a chapter being written that as of this moment has given the Saints their 4th straight victory and sole possession of 1st Place in the NFC South Division.......

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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