USATSI

Aaron Rodgers spent most of Sunday night’s game with a smile on his face, something you don’t often see from an opposing quarterback playing against the Saints inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. But Sunday night’s game wasn’t your typical Saints home game, as the Saints, like most NFL teams, are not allowing fans inside their stadiums due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And while New Orleans did have 750 player family members on hand, it was clearly not the same environment that the Saints are accustomed to having. 

Rodgers took full advantage of the near-empty house. Instead of fighting a raucous Saints crowd, Rodgers calmly directed a Packers offense that piled up 24 first downs and 369 yards. Rodgers, who threw for 283 yards and three touchdowns in leading Green Bay to a 3-0 start, was honest when he was asked what it was like to play the Saints without their typical home-field advantage. Sunday marked Rogers’ first win in three visits to the Superdome. 

“It’s a lot different environment than in 2008 and 2014,” Rodgers told NBC’s Michele Tafoya after the game, via Jeff Nowak of Nola.com. “This place is rocking all the time. I think we all miss that in the sport, just the fan interaction, the energy of the crowd. But it definitely helps us out in an environment like this.”

An example of how Rodgers took advantage of the near empty house took place with 3:49 remaining and the Packers, ahead 30-27 at the time, facing a third-and-3 on the Saints’ 15-yard-line. Rodgers, using a hard count, was able to draw the Saints offsides before throwing a pass to Allen Lazard on the free play. The Packers, who also received a pass interference penalty on the play, scored the deciding touchdown three plays later. 

While the Saints are hoping to fan a limited number of fans on hand for their Week 5 prime-time game against the Chargers, coach Sean Payton is worried about fixing the product on the field after watching his team lose consecutive games since the start of the 2017 season. 

“We’re not playing well enough,” Payton said, via Mark Maske of the Washington Post. “Let’s not fool ourselves. We’re making too many mistakes and we’re not playing disciplined enough on both sides of the ball. And that’s really just the truth.”

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