There is a surprise team sitting atop the NFC South standings this Monday, Oct. 23. Many fans might expect the Carolina Panthers or Atlanta Falcons to be leading the division, but instead, the 4-2 New Orleans Saints are the frontrunners just seven weeks into the season.
New Orleans has bounced back nicely after losing its first two games this year. The Saints entered Sunday’s contest against Green Bay on a three-game winning streak but looked shaky early on at historic Lambeau Field.
The Packers jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the fifth play of the game, as running back Aaron Jones carried the ball 46 yards for the game’s first score. Meanwhile, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees started the game by throwing two interceptions on the Saints’ first two drives.
It wasn’t until the Saints’ third drive that they finally got into the end zone when running back Mark Ingram broke for a nice 12-yard run to tie the game at 7-7.
Green Bay quarterback Brett Hundley answered back with a 14-yard touchdown run on the Packers’ next drive to go up 14-7. Both teams punted on the next three possessions before Green Bay put together a drive that ended in a missed field goal.
The Packers still had a seven-point lead going into the break, but there were signs of hope for the Saints. New Orleans just had to stop turning the ball over and finish drives for points.
After receiving the second-half kickoff, the Saints drove down the field, and then, Brees hit Brandon Coleman with a 22-yard pass for New Orleans’ second touchdown of the game. Green Bay blocked the extra-point attempt to stay ahead at 14-13.
The Saints’ defense continued to play well, though, forcing a punt on the Packers’ first possession on the second half. Brees took the Saints down the field yet again, but a good drive stalled after an illegal block-in-the-back penalty.
New Orleans had to kick a field goal to take a 16-14 lead due to the penalty yards. Green Bay answered back with its own field goal to retake the lead at 17-16, and the Saints countered with another field goal to go up 19-17 early in the fourth quarter.
Green Bay punted on its next possession, which allowed Brees to put the game away on the next New Orleans possession when he got over the goal line on a one-yard run to give the Saints a 26-17 lead.
Hundley threw an interception on the next Packers’ next drive to end any chance at a comeback, and New Orleans ran out the clock for the win, giving the Saints their fourth consecutive victory.
New Orleans racked up 460 yards of total offense compared to the Packers’ 260 yards, but turnovers helped keep Green Bay in the game. Green Bay did have success running the ball most of the game, though, finishing with 181 rushing yards. New Orleans didn’t do badly on the ground, either, with 161 yards rushing.
The Saints had 324 passing yards, but the Packers managed just 79 passing yard, with Hundley taking over the offense in place of an injured Aaron Rodgers.
The rest of the NFC South didn’t fare as well as New Orleans this past weekend. Chicago couldn’t score an offensive touchdown but scored two times on defense to defeat the Carolina Panthers 17-3. Tampa Bay fumbled late in a tie game against the Buffalo Bills, and the Buccaneers ended up losing 27-30.
In the Sunday night game, New England jumped all over the Atlanta in a rematch of the previous Super Bowl. The Patriots made sure there was no comeback for the Falcons in a 23-7 win.
Those losses put the Saints ahead of all competitors in the NFC South with 4-3 Carolina in second, 3-3 Atlanta in third and 2-4 Tampa Bay in last place. The Saints will try to stay at the top of the division when the Chicago Bears visit New Orleans this Sunday, Oct. 29.