Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers won Distraction Bowl 28-27 over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
In what was supposed to be a marquee game pitting two of the NFL’s powerhouse franchises, it turned into a shootout between two teams in dire need of a win in the rugged NFC. The Saints, rocked by the bounty scandal, entered the game as the conference’s only winless team. The Packers, coming off a short week after Monday’s stunning and controversial loss at Seattle, entered the game 1-2.
The referees blew another call against the Saints but the Packers survived this one. After taking a 28-27 lead with 7:00 to go, Darren Sproles fumbled the ensuing kickoff on a big hit by Dezman Moses. The play had been blown dead, however, and Packers coach Mike McCarthy was out of challenges.
The Saints drove to the Packers’ 25 but the drive stalled. Garrett Hartley put the Saints ahead with a 43-yard field goal, but the play was nullified by a holding penalty. That set up a 53-yard attempt, but Green Bay’s Mike Daniels was flagged for offside. That made it a 48-yard attempt, which Hartley missed to the left with 2:49 remaining.
Green Bay needed a first down to run out the clock, which it got. On third-and-3, Aaron Rodgers hit James Jones with an 8-yard completion -- Jones made the catch despite pass interference -- and Rodgers and the Packers ran out the clock.
Rodgers finished 31-of-41 for 319 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. That was enough to outduel Drew Brees, who lit up the Packers for 35-of-54 passing for 446 yards and three touchdowns.
The Packers and Saints traded first-possession punts, an unlikely start to a first-half shootout.
The Packers led 21-14 at halftime, with Rodgers (17-of-22, 165 yards, three touchdowns) and Brees (20-of-24, 195 yards, two touchdowns) combining for 360 yards and five touchdowns.
The play of the half, however, was a 5-yard run by John Kuhn. Green Bay led 14-7 midway through the second quarter and lined up to punt on fourth-and-1 from the 17. With the Saints double-teaming the gunners, that left just six defenders in the box. Kuhn took the direct snap and plowed ahead for the first down. The Packers didn’t face another third down for the rest of the possession until Rodgers and Jones hooked up for their second touchdown of the game, a 12-yarder, that made it 21-7 with 4:50 left in the half.
With the first of his touchdown passes, Brees tied Johnny Unitas’ 52-year-old record with at least one touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.