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Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Drew Brees recently said the replacement referees were “an embarrassment to the league.” Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers agreed. The good news is the regular referees will be back on the field – the NFLRA and the league reached an agreement late Wednesday – when the Packers try to rebound and send the the New Orleans Saints to just their second 0-4 start in 16 seasons Sunday at Lambeau Field. Brees’ Saints may be searching for answers after blowing an 18-point lead to fall to 0-3 last week, but the Packers are feeling the biggest losers heading into their Week 4 matchup after being robbed of a win Monday night.
Green Bay was leading Seattle 12-7 when the replacement referees ruled that Golden Tate hauled in a Hail Mary and upheld the call upon review, despite visual evidence that showed M.D. Jennings clearly had made a game-clinching interception. The backlash quickly forced a deal between the league and the officials. This is the first meeting since the memorable 2011 season-opening shootout that was won by the Packers 42-34 thanks to a last-second goal-line stand.
ABOUT THE SAINTS (0-3): Who ‘Dat? The answer, lately, is everyone. The Saints, who are still dealing with the fallout of Bountygate, are 0-3 for the first time since 2007 after losing to Kansas City 27-24 in overtime last week. Brees, who signed a five-year, $100 million contract this summer, hasn’t looked the same without suspended head coach Sean Payton calling the plays, and the defense has been atrocious (league-worst 477.3 ypg). Brees broke his own completion percentage record last season (71.6), but is connecting on just 54.7 percent of his attempts, the lowest rate since he became a full-time starter. He has a pedestrian touchdown-to-interception ratio (7 TDs, 5 INTs). Brees’ main target has been running back Darren Sproles, who leads the team with 18 catches. The speedy Sproles failed to record a reception for the first time since 2010 last week. Meanwhile, TE Jimmy Graham has a touchdown catch in six straight games.
ABOUT THE PACKERS (1-2): Green Bay is seething after having a game literally ripped away from it on Monday night. Several Packers players took to Twitter, bashing the league and the outcome. But they have other issues to address, mainly the fact that Rodgers has been sacked more times (16) than any quarterback after being taken down eight times in the first half of Monday’s loss. The poor protection has led to the Packers being ranked 24th in scoring (19.0). Like Brees, something is amiss about Rodgers as well. After throwing 45 touchdowns last season, the reigning league MVP has just three thus far. Green Bay’s defense is markedly improved, perhaps in part to Charles Woodson’s move to safety, and is No. 1 in the league against the pass (125.3 ypg). Linebacker Clay Matthews is well on his way to a bounce-back season, leading the league with six sacks.
1. “(The) 13th man beat us tonight.” – a tweet from Green Bay tight end Tom Crabtree in reference to Seattle’s famed 12th man – the 13th man being the officials.
2. The Saints are 2-9 on the road against the Packers.
3. New Orleans didn’t record a single first down in its final 12 offensive snaps last week. Brees was 0-for-6 in the fourth quarter and overtime.