Green Bay Packers fans clearly won the pregame eye and ear test in terms of which fan base showed up in greater numbers for Sunday’s NFC opening-day showdown against the New Orleans Saints at TIAA Bank Field.
Jameis Winston quickly took them out of the mix.
The former Florida State quarterback who arrived at Tampa Bay in 2015 with a Heisman Trophy in one hand and a national championship trophy in the other validated coach Sean Payton’s decision to make him the heir apparent to Drew Brees as he threw a career-high five touchdown passes in a shocking 38-3 rout of the Packers that marked the worst defeat as a starting quarterback in the storied career of Aaron Rodgers.
The Saints had a 10-0 lead on their first two possessions and it was 17-0 before Rogers led the Packers on a two-minute drive at the end of the first half that resulted in their only points of the game, a 39-yard field goal by Mason Crosby.
The first two TD passes by Winston were modest: a 3-yard shovel pass to Alvin Kamara and a 1-yard flip to tight end Juwan Johnson.
New Orleans then turned an interception and a head-scratching gamble by Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur in which he went for it on fourth-and-two from his own 21-yard line into two more scores, Winston’s TD passes of 8 yards to Johnson and 10 yards to Chris Hogan.
At that point, Payton had called a cautious, conservative game, a steady diet of short passes, screens and runs by Kamara and Tony Jones Jr. -- plus four scrambles for 38 yards by Winston, who made his own decision to tuck the ball in and run for big gains that led the Saints' first scoring drive.
"Those were big plays that ultimately helped us with the first field goal," Payton said. "I thought he played very well. He was locked in, focused, we spread the ball around and we're going to go through that tape and look at some of the throws and there might be a progression or two but I thought he played very well."
Winston didn’t mind a plan more suited for a game manager than the gunslinger he tried to be in Tampa.
“Sean says, it's about the decision, not the result,” Winston said. “If you keep making the right decisions, it will take care of itself. Sean called an amazing game.”
It ended in a flourish as Winston heaved a 55-yard TD bomb to Deonte Harris early in the fourth period to put the exclamation point on the victory. It also pushed Winston over the 100-yard mark. He finished the game with 14 of 20 completions for 148 yards and a 130.8 passer rating, his second-highest as a pro.
Could this be Jameis Winston 2.0? And can Payton be the coach who gets the best out of the multi-talented player who had a 28-1 record as a starter with FSU?
In his last full season with the Bucs in 2019, Winston led the NFL in passing yardage with 5,109 yards and touchdown passes with 33. He also led in interceptions with 30, nine more than the next nearest player, and had nine games with two or more.
Tampa Bay went 7-9 in 2019 and Winston had a 28-43 record as a starter to that point (.394). The Bucs chose not to re-sign him, jumped at the chance to get Tom Brady and went on to win the Super Bowl.
Winston signed with New Orleans, the closest NFL team to his hometown near Birmingham, Ala., and threw only 11 passes in four games backing up Brees last season.
But he may have learned his lesson: taking care of the football beats gunslinging in the NFL.
Winston's only miscue was throwing into double coverage and getting picked off by Darnell Savage in the Packers' end zone in the third quarter — but it was nullified when Za-Darius Smith was flagged for roughing the passer. The second TD to Johnson came on the first play of the fourth quarter.
After the game, Winston didn’t want to talk about how much the game did for his confidence as much as it might have been a three-hour diversion from Saints fans back in Louisiana still digging their way out of the wreckage cause by Hurricane Ida on Aug. 29 – which was why the game was being played in Jacksonville.
“That was a shout-out to the city of New Orleans and the region,” Winston said. “They’ve been through so much, for us to celebrate this victory with them … hat’s off to them. The motivated us. They inspired us.”
Saints veteran linebacker Demario Davis, who was been on of Winston’s mentors with the Saints, said Winston’s maturation is gratifying.
“I don't think there's a player on the field I'm more proud of,” he said. “We don’t talk just about football; we talk about life. No one is more excited than I am to watch this because of the belief I have in him. The sky is the limit for his evolution as a player and a man. I think the world is going to be shocked.”
While Davis was predicting “shocking” things for Winston, the real shocker was Rodgers’ performance. He was 15 of 28 for 133 yards and two interceptions and the Packers were never competitive once they fell behind by double digits in the first quarter.
You have to give the @Saints lots of credit,these guys have been in Dallas for weeks and had to deal with a hurricane,hats off to SP ,and playing without their HOF QB ( Brees) 👏,as @packers fans!, that was a very disappointing loss,some mistakes will get fixed,some won’t— leroy butler (@leap36) September 13, 2021
Rodgers failed to convert a third down and his passer rating was 36.8.
“It’s just one game,” Rodgers said. “We played bad. I played bad. Offensively we didn’t execute very well. One game. We’ve got 16 to go.”
LaFleur minced no words.
“They came ready to play,” he said. “They absolutely embarrassed us today.”
Payton said his defense operated well from front to back.
"One of the top third-down teams and one of the top overall total offensive teams [in the NFL]," he said of the Packers. "There's so many things that they have been able to do well. Those guys on the backend played exceptionally well. I thought we rushed them, contained the rush, we got some turnovers and we did it against one of the better quarterbacks that this league has seen in a long time."
Notable: The attendance was 35,242, with an estimated 60-40 split in favor of Packers fans. … Payton praised Jacksonville for its support of the team in taking on the Saints’ home opener and the conditions of the turf at TIAA Bank Field. "The surface was great, the people of Jacksonville were great," he said. … Payton also said he was rooting for hotter weather than the 83 degrees at kickoff. "We felt like the hotter the better," he said. "It's no disrespect but let's just say this game was in the winter time and the circumstances were flipped you'd get a team like Chicago, Cleveland finding cold weather against a team that plays in a dome so we appreciate that we had this." ... The three former Jaguars in the game all made some contributions. Aldrick Rosas opened the Saints’ scoring with a 44-yard field goal, Allen Lazard caught two passes for 16 yards and Marcedes Lewis had one catch for 19 yards for the Packers.
Source : https://www.jacksonville.com/story/sports/nfl/2021/09/13/packers-fans-took-over-tiaa-bank-field-then-jameis-winston-took-them-out/8317601002/1857