|Saints desperate to defend dome vs. Packers|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 23 November 2008 08:06|
A certain quarterback who grew up about an hour away in the small southern Mississippi town of Kiln had a lot to do with that.
When the Packers (5-5) visit the Saints (5-5) on Monday night, there will be no massive contingent of fans in green No. 4 jerseys driving in from places like Hattiesburg, Miss., where current New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre went to college and still lives, or from the Mississippi coast, where he grew up.
The Packers' new quarterback is in some ways the anti-Favre. Aaron Rodgers played his college ball on the West Coast at Cal-Berkeley and remains relatively unproven in his first season as an NFL starter.
have in head coach Mike McCarthy, who happens to be quite familiar with New Orleans.
McCarthy's stature as an NFL assistant rose while he was the Saints' offensive coordinator earlier this decade, getting more out of former New Orleans quarterback Aaron Brooks than anyone else could.
McCarthy said he's been impressed with how Rodgers accepted the unenviable challenge of taking over for an immensely popular and certain Hall of Fame quarterback.
``I don't think anybody can prepare for that type of situation that he was put through,'' McCarthy said. ``The strains on his confidence and the way he handled it, it's really a credit to him.''
Through 10 games, Rodgers was eighth in the NFL in yards passing with 2,351 and tied for seventh with 15 touchdown passes. His completion percentage of 64.5 percent ranked 12th. And he's done enough to keep the Packers in playoff contention. If he continues to improve and gets the Packers into the postseason, he'll have a little more in common with Favre.
Rodgers said he hasn't worried about selling himself to fans in Green Bay, saying he didn't want to waste energy worrying about things that were out of his control.
ckers and I'm one of the Packers, so I knew they would get behind me and this team.''
So far, the Packers have been as inconsistent as the Saints. However, Green Bay has the benefit of playing in the NFC North, where no team was better than .500 entering this weekend.
If the Packers finish strong, they may look back to their Week 11 victory over Chicago as a turning point. Rodgers completed 23 of 30 passes for 227 yards with two touchdowns in the 37-3 win.
``Now we're in a position where we have a six-game season and we control our own destiny,'' Rodgers said.
The Saints have no such luxury in the NFC South, where they sit in last place. New Orleans, which won last week in Kansas City, has yet to win two games in a row. If that trend doesn't end soon, it will spell doom for the Saints' dwindling playoff hopes.
The Saints were expected to be better, but have been ravaged by season-ending injuries, including to both starting cornerbacks (Mike McKenzie and Tracy Porter) and starting defensive end Charles Grant. Possible four-game suspensions loom for running back Deuce McAllister and defensive end Will Smith, whose use of over-the counter diet pills resulted in positive tests for a diuretic that is banned by the NFL because it's seen as a possible masking agent for steroids.
s already had both knees reconstructed and plays a limited role in head coach Sean Payton's offense, there's even a chance that the Saints' all-time leading rusher will be making his very last home appearance in a New Orleans uniform.
Meanwhile, Reggie Bush has missed three games after having arthroscopic surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. He's practiced intermittently and was questionable for the game.
Still, the Saints have the top passing offense in the league, with Drew Brees (3,251 yards passing) on pace to break Dan Marino's 1984 record of 5,084 yards passing in a single season. Three of the Saints' losses have been close, with the difference being missed field goals or New Orleans' mystifying inability to convert crucial but relatively routine short-yardage runs on potential winning drives.
``I feel like really three out of those five losses were really close and could have gone either way,'' said Brees, who'll be challenged by a Green Bay squad that has seven defensive touchdowns this season.
``I'm not going to sit here and say coulda, shoulda, woulda. We have played very well at times, but we haven't closed out the game for whatever reason. ... We have to now establish ourselves and pull away from the pack. We need to rattle off a few.''