GREEN BAY, Wis. — Their backs against the wall, the Saints finally showed signs of life.
Yet, it wasn’t enough.
Garrett Hartley pulled a 48-yard field goal attempt wide left with 2:54 to go in the game.
New Orleans never got the ball back and remains winless after four games for the first time in five years after losing at Green Bay 28-27 Sunday.
The Saints were in position to pick up their first win of the season after producing on offense like they have for much of the past six seasons.
New Orleans put up 474 total yards and converted 9 of 17 third downs with Drew Brees coming through with a 446-yard, three-touchdown afternoon.
And late in the game, it appeared he was leading New Orleans to its first victory.
He drove the Saints from their own 31-yard line to the Packers’ 25 before the drive stalled. Hartley’s initial 43-yard field goal was good, but a holding penalty negated the field goal. An encroachment penalty put Hartley in position for the 48-yard field goal.
But for the second week in a row, he missed what turned out to be a critical field goal.
New Orleans’ defense allowed Green Bay (2-2) to gain 400-plus yards, including 319 passing and four touchdowns by Aaron Rodgers.
After both offenses started with three-and-outs, New Orleans allowed Green Bay to score its first first-quarter points of the season in taking a 7-0 lead. New Orleans defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley had the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers nearly sacked. Instead, the quarterback was able to elude the tackle and throw to tight end Jermichael Finley in front of linebacker Scott Shanle.
But then the Saints did what they rarely have this season and, in doing so, helped Brees tie Johnny Unitas’ NFL record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass at 47. New Orleans answered, driving 80 yards in 10 plays, tying the game on a 20-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston. Jimmy Graham caught three passes for 42 yards on the drive.
On the ensuing drive, the Saints got Green Bay into third-and-six, but Rodgers scrambled just past the first down marker for a first down. Eight plays later, Rodgers hit receiver Greg Jennings in front of a diving Corey White to put the Saints down 14-7.
New Orleans was stopped at the Green Bay 40 on its next possession. And after pinning the Packers at their own 8, the Saints forced a fourth-and-inches. Green Bay gambled, running fullback John Kuhn on a fake punt and it worked. Minutes later, Rodgers had his third touchdown pass of the game, hitting Jennings on a 14-yard slant in front of Jabari Greer for a 21-7 lead.
With 4:50 to go in the half, the Saints needed a touchdown to keep the game close. And that’s what they got, converting two third-and-ones on a 12-play, 80-yard drive capped by a six-yard touchdown catch by Darren Sproles that pulled New Orleans to within 21-14 at halftime.
The Saints opened the second half with the ball and drove to the Packers’ 3-yard line. But after a 12-men-on-the-field penalty against Green Bay set up New Orleans with first-and-goal at the 1, three plays netted the Saints minus-1 yard. New Orleans settled for a 20-yard Garrett Hartley field goal and the Saints trailed 21-17.
And then the game changed. The Packers drove to New Orleans’ 4-yard line. On third-and-3, New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins was called for a facemask, poking Rodgers in the eye.
Rodgers had to leave the game and in came backup Graham Harrell. But on his first play, Green Bay’s right guard stepped on the quarterback and fumbled the handoff. Jenkins recovered. Four plays later, New Orleans’ Joe Morgan ran past Packers cornerback Sam Shields and hauled in a 80-yard touchdown pass, giving the Saints a 24-21 lead.
On the next series, Patrick Robinson made a lunging interception on a pass intended for Jordy Nelson, giving the Saints’ defense a take-away on back-to-back possessions. Eleven plays – including third-and-17 and third-and-14 conversions – later, Hartley’s 27-yard field goal gave the Saints a 27-21 lead with 13:09 to go.
Each team punted on their next possessions.
But after coming up with three straight stops, the Saints’ defense couldn’t hold up when it needed to. Rodgers drove the Packers 57 yards in seven plays and hit Nelson for an 11-yard touchdown pass in front of Robinson. The score put Green Bay back on top, this time 28-27.