We know what the big story if for the week, but let’s dive into some of the other story lines.
The Defensive Line Looks Dominant
The Vikings put up 23 points on the Packers, but the defense was playing double duty after Hundley tosed three picks (not that they were all his fault). It’s a reasonable number of points to give up and the defense held the Vikings running backs to 3.1 yards per carry. In the second half, when they were tying to mount a comeback, the defense held them to three field goals. The Vikings were 4 of 12 on third downs and if you don’t count incomplete passes as completions, they were actually only 3 of 12. They were also 0-1 on fourth down. None of those good things happened because of the secondary. Mike Daniels has been great for a while, but Kenny Clark is ascending before our eyes and may become the best defensive lineman on the team by the end of the year. With rain in the forecast, this could become a ground game and this line would be a big factor.
What About Blake
Packer fans love to whine about how the team doesn’t use first round picks on the least important position on defense. They also love to write guys off if they are not immediate superstars. Then you get a guy like Blake Martinez who gains valuable experience in his first year and starts to realize his full potential in his second year. Playing with more confidence he has been rattling off some impressive stat lines. He’s got a great bunch of guys playing in front of him (see above), and his development is a welcome addition the defense. A stout box run D can allow a struggling secondary to play pass defense without having to worry about play action, which is nice.
The Aaron That’s Playing
Aaron Jones broke out a couple weeks against Dallas then broke down against a much better Vikings defense. With only 41 yards on 13 carries, he didn’t look like the electric back we saw down in Big D. But really, nothing looked normal last week after Rodgers went down. That type of in-game adjustment skews everything. This week, he’ll get another shot and his team will need to see a big game to take the pressure off Brett Hundley in his first start. His tackles should both be back, but Taylor and Linsley could both miss the game, so who knows what kind of holes he’ll see (if any). Either way, some ground productivity will go a long way towards keeping the Saints under 40 and if it rains, the running game will just get that much more important.
If the Packers get the ball first, they need to score, even a field goal, for the sake of confidence. Hundley has had a week with the 1’s and their heavily-scripted first series, tailored to his skills and the Saints D (who are going at him without the benefit of any regular season film) should help him find an early rhythm. If they go three and out, it will probably crush their psyche early, in a game where the fans probably aren’t going to be super into it unless they get a d#mn good reason. Even if they get a little momentum early, it’s still going to be hard for our banged up secondary, missing Burnett, Rollins, and possibly Randall, to slow even an aging Drew Beees playing on grass. Without a heavy enough rain to make this a ground game, it’s hard to see the Packers pulling this one out. I think Hundley has a 50-50 shot of taking this team to the playoffs, but he will look better after playing this game and having a bye week of preparation. I’m keeping the faith, but I’m also buying an extra case of Miller Lite for this.
Saints 37, Packers 23