Final

Saints 34

(0-1, 0-1 away)

Packers 42

(1-0, 1-0 home)

Coverage: NBC

8:30 PM ET, September 8, 2011

Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI 

1 2 3 4 T
NO 7 10 10 734
GB 21 7 7 742

Top Performers

Passing: D. Brees (NO) - 419 YDS, 3 TD

Rushing: J. Starks (GB) - 12 CAR, 57 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: D. Henderson (NO) - 6 REC, 100 YDS, 1 TD

Packers hang on, stop Saints at goal line to win season opener

Associated Press

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A Super Bowl hangover and the NFL lockout weren't about to slow down Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. The New Orleans Saints just couldn't keep up.

Rodgers came out on top in a memorable opening-night duel with Drew Brees, and the Packers made a goal-line stand on the final play of the game to beat the Saints 42-34 on Thursday night.

With the Saints on the 1-yard line, Clay Matthews and safety Morgan Burnett led a swarm of Packers defenders who stopped Saints rookie running back Mark Ingram short of the goal line.

"It's not what you envision," Matthews said. "Obviously, you'd love to have a blowout, but I think it represents everything that we preach, which is finishing games. And it comes down to the very last play -- we win, or they have an opportunity to tie it up. I think it's fantastic to overcome that adversity, get the stop that we needed and get off the field with the victory."

Rodgers and Brees had big games, but Packers rookie Randall Cobb stole the show.

Cobb, a second-round draft pick out of Kentucky, caught a touchdown from Rodgers and ran a kickoff back 108 yards for a score in the third quarter -- tying an NFL record for the longest kickoff return in history.

In the wake of a rules change designed to promote touchbacks, Cobb just decided to run one back from deep in the end zone.

"It was amazing," Cobb said. "The feeling of being in Lambeau Field and just having all of the guys around me coming off of the Super Bowl and just trying to do anything I can to contribute, and I certainly tried to make the most of my opportunities tonight."

Rodgers threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns.

"It's a good night for us," Rodgers said. "I felt good about the way that I was throwing the ball. Missed a couple I probably could have hit."

Brees threw for 419 yards and three touchdowns, including a late touchdown to Jimmy Graham that cut the lead to 8 with 2:15 left.

After a Green Bay punt, Brees marched the Saints to the Packers 9-yard line and spiked the ball with 3 seconds left. Green Bay's A.J. Hawk was called for pass interference and the ball was placed at the 1.

Led by Matthews and Burnett, the Packers defense swarmed Ingram short of the goal line and the game was over.

"You've got to get a yard," Ingram said. "It's goal line to win the game, got to get a yard."

It was a big night for Donald Driver, who tied James Lofton's Packers franchise mark for career yards receiving with 9,656.

Rodgers wanted to get him the record at home.

"We tried to get him the ball again, we just didn't have an opportunity," Rodgers said.

The Packers' most impressive scoring play of the night came courtesy of Cobb, who fielded the ball deep in the Packers' end zone in the third quarter but took it out anyway. Cobb spun off a tackling attempt by the Saints' Leigh Torrence, put his right hand down to keep his balance, then rambled to the end zone.

Cobb's 108-yard return tied an NFL record set by New England's Ellis Hobbs in September 2007. It also was the Packers' first kickoff return for a touchdown since Allen Rossum in 2000.

Cobb's big return gave the Packers a 35-20 lead, but the game wasn't over. Darren Sproles answered with a long kickoff return of his own, and Brees drove the Saints for a 29-yard touchdown to Devery Henderson.

The Saints forced a punt and marched to the Packers' 7-yard line, but failed on a fourth-down conversion attempt and gave the ball back to the Packers.

Green Bay drove again, and Rodgers handed the ball to John Kuhn on third-and-goal for a 1-yard touchdown and a 42-27 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Packers' defensive struggles made for some nervous late moments, but they came through when they had to.

If Thursday's game was a referendum on the importance of player-led team workouts during the lockout, the results are in: The workouts Brees organized over the summer weren't enough to help the Saints take down the champions, and the Packers' decision not to get together as a team certainly didn't seem to hurt them.

"That was a good start for us," Rodgers joked. "But I've just got to ask myself, 'What would have happened if we had had offseason workouts?'"

For the NFL, Thursday's opener was a chance to stamp out any lingering memories of a tumultuous offseason filled with tense and ugly -- but ultimately successful -- labor negotiations.

With a massive stage engulfing a portion of the Lambeau Field parking lot for a pregame concert, Thursday night certainly felt like a big game had come to the NFL's smallest market. Going into the game, Greg Jennings compared it to a "mini Super Bowl."

But there wasn't anything small about the Packers' performance, proving once again that they were ready for the bright lights and a tough opponent.

Game notes


Packers DB Charles Woodson earned a 15-yard penalty in the third quarter, and admitted he threw a punch at a Saints player. Woodson wasn't ejected. "Yeah, I threw a punch," Woodson said. "Just got frustrated, the guy was holding me a little longer than I wanted. Nothing was said about it, referee-wise, quick enough, and I reacted. It is what it is, I guess." ... Packers S Nick Collins appeared to hurt his left arm but stayed in the game. ... Packers CB Tramon Williams went down after taking a hard hit on the right shoulder in the fourth quarter. ... Saints WR Lance Moore sat out because of a groin injury.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
NO
GB
1st Downs2724
Passing 1st downs
2014
Rushing 1st downs
510
1st downs from Penalties
20
3rd down efficiency
9-148-12
4th down efficiency
0-10-0
Total Plays7364
Total Yards477399
Yards per play6.56.2
Total Drives1110
Passing396296
Comp - Att
32-4927-35
Yards per pass
8.18.5
Interceptions thrown
00
Sacks - Yards Lost
3-232-16
Rushing81103
Rushing Attempts
2127
Yards per rush
3.93.8
Red Zone (Made-Att)1-54-4
Penalties3-156-48
Turnovers10
Fumbles lost
10
Interceptions thrown
00
Defensive / Special Teams TDs11
Possession27:0632:54

Passing Leaders

NOC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Brees32/494198.6303-23
GBC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Rodgers27/353128.9302-16

Rushing Leaders

NOCARYDSAVGTDLG
Ingram13403.109
Thomas5316.2021
GBCARYDSAVGTDLG
Starks12574.8117
Grant9404.4010

Receiving Leaders

NORECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Henderson610016.71299
Colston68113.50239
GBRECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Jennings78912.71228
Nelson67712.81368

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERNOGB
gbTD10:08Greg Jennings 7 Yd Pass From Aaron Rodgers (Mason Crosby Kick) 07
gbTD06:24Jordy Nelson 3 Yd Pass From Aaron Rodgers (Mason Crosby Kick) 014
noTD03:31Robert Meachem 31 Yd Pass From Drew Brees (John Kasay Kick) 714
gbTD00:11Randall Cobb 32 Yd Pass From Aaron Rodgers (Mason Crosby Kick) 721
SECOND QUARTERNOGB
noFG09:44John Kasay 30 Yd 1021
noTD08:37Darren Sproles 72 Yd Punt Return (John Kasay Kick) 1721
gbTD01:59James Starks 17 Yd Run (Mason Crosby Kick) 1728
THIRD QUARTERNOGB
noFG08:40John Kasay 38 Yd 2028
gbTD08:26Randall Cobb 108 Yd Kickoff Return (Mason Crosby Kick) 2035
noTD06:54Devery Henderson 29 Yd Pass From Drew Brees (John Kasay Kick) 2735
FOURTH QUARTERNOGB
gbTD11:50John Kuhn 1 Yd Run (Mason Crosby Kick) 2742
noTD02:15Jimmy Graham 5 Yd Pass From Drew Brees (John Kasay Kick) 3442

Research Notes

The last 2 times the Saints have opened the season against the defending Super Bowl champs, they have given up more than 40 points in a road loss. In 20076 they lost 41-10 at Indianapolis and ended up going 7-9.
  [+]
From Elias: Randall Cobb is the only rookie in the Super Bowl Era with at least one rec TD and one KO ret TD in a teams season opener. He is the 4th player in NFL history to score at least 2 TD, with at least one KO ret TD IN NFL DEBUT. The last to do it? The immortal Bill Bowman in 1954.
  [+]
The 42 points allowed by the Saints is the 3rd-most they have allowed in a season opener in team history. In 1973, they lost 62-7 to the Falcons, and in 1985, they lost 47-20 to the Chiefs.
There's only been one play longer in NFL history than Randall Cobb's 108-yard kickoff return TD on Thursday. Only Antonio Cromartie's 109-yard missed FG ret in 2007 was longer.
  [+]
This is first Week 1 game with both teams scoring at least 17 pts in 1st half since Jets at Bills in 2002.
The 28 points allowed by the Saints are the 3rd-most allowed in a Week 1 game (or first game of the season) in team history. In 1972, they trailed the Rams 34-7 at the half (and lost 34-14), and in 1976, they trailed the Vikings 30-3 (and lost 40-9).
Sproles is the 2nd player in Saints history to return a punt for a touchdown in Week 1. The other to do it was Derrick Shepard in a 28-0 win over the Cowboys in 1989.
Thursday marked just the 5th time in NFL history that Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks met in Week 1. Rodgers and Brees are the first pair to hook up since Mark Rypien beat Troy Aikman to open the 1993 season.
  [+]
Darren Sproles' 72-yard punt return touchdown is the first punt return TD by a Saints player since Reggie Bush had 2 in the same game on Oct. 6, 2008 against the Vikings.
Packers: 1st team to score 21 pts in 1st qtr of Week 1 since 2008 Falcons against the Lions. That means the Saints are the 1st team to allow 21 pts in the 1st qtr since the 2008 Lions, who went 0-16.
The Packers scored 21 points in the 1st quarter, their most in the 1st quarter since scoring 21 points in their 2001 season opener against the Lions.

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