After giving up 34 points in an overtime win against Atlanta and 35 to New Orleansno thanks to unwelcome turnover help from suddenly unreliable running back Ahman GreenPackers coach Mike Sherman has good reason to worry.
"Second week in a row that we haven't stepped up to the level we need to play," Sherman said.
By adding running back Deuce McAllister and faster receivers and subtracting Ricky Williams, the Saints thought they would be more explosive on offense.
After winning at Tampa Bay in overtime and breaking out against the Packers, Saints coach Jim Haslett has good reason to smile on his trip to Champaign next week to face the Bears.
"We have more weapons than I've ever had here," Haslett said.
McAllister sealed this one with a 62-yard run with four minutes left after the Saints had worn down the Packers. McAllister carried four straight times for all 73 yards of the drive and scored from the 2 with 2:31 to go.
The Packers had been trying to regain momentum lost with Green's second-quarter fumble that the Saints turned into a 14-3 lead, but McAllister ended any thought of another Brett Favre comeback.
The second-year back from Mississippi had been held to 56 yards on 18 carries before his big run, but had a 50-yard burst to the end zone nullified by holding.
"We had one called back," McAllister said. "Come back and try to make another."
Said Haslett: "I think we wore them down. It's probably why Deuce broke the run at the end."
Favre's two touchdown passeshis first to newcomer Terry Glenn and another to Donald Driverenabled him to surpass Johnny Unitas on the all-time list of touchdown passes with 291, but it was the Saints who celebrated.
Former Favre backup Aaron Brooks hit ex-Colts free agent Jerome Pathon on a 5-yard score and rookie Donte' Stallworth for a 34-yard touchdown. Another rookie, safety Keyuo Craver, scored on a 38-yard fumble return after another free-agent pickup, safety Fakhir Brown, forced Glenn to fumble a reception.
McAllister also scored on an opening 68-yard drive, so all five Saints touchdowns were scored by players who either weren't with the team last year or played second string.
The added help has taken pressure off top receiver Joe Horn, whose six catches for 120 yards included gains of 40 and 33 yards.
"Joe Horn is the man on this offense; everyone knows that," Brooks said.
Pathon's touchdown catch came after Green fumbled at the Green Bay 21 despite holding the ball with both arms. A notorious fumbler, Green appeared to have his problem under control last season. But he also fumbled twice against Atlanta, losing one.
Worse, Green, who carried 17 times for 81 yards and appeared on the verge of breaking one the way McAllister did, jammed his knee early in the fourth quarter and didn't return. Sherman did not know his status.
Saints defensive coordinator Rick Venturi said his players were well aware of Green's penchant for fumbling.
"We told guys to finish the play because that ball may be out," Venturi said.
As for ex-Saint Johnson, signed by Sherman in what the Packers thought was the free-agent coup of the winter, he was completely shut outzero tackles, assists or sacks.
Haslett couldn't squelch a chuckle recalling Johnson's comment that the 2002 Packers defense could dominate like the 1985 Bears.
Meanwhile, Saints rookie defensive end Charles Grant, forced to play most of the game after Johnson replacement Darren Howard was injured, played "exceptional," Haslett said, as the Saints put much more pressure on Favre than the Packers applied to Brooks.
Except for an interception by Brooks that led to the first Green Bay touchdown just before half, the Saints had threatened to put the game away after going up 21-3 on a play that starred ex-Bears center Jerry Fontenot.
With Green Bay cornerback Tyrone Williams blitzing, Brooks lofted a pass to Stallworth in the flat that Williams got a finger on. Fontenot decked safety Antuan Edwards with a helmet-rattling pancake block that sprung Stallworth to the end zone.
"I actually passed the corner up and almost went to block him," Fontenot said.
"I let him go and went to the next level and unfortunately for No. 24 (Edwards), he didn't get out of my way soon enough."
It was the perfect call against the defense. Fontenot's block was replayed on the Superdome video screen and his name was announced as fans went wild and teammates slapped high-fives.
When the center becomes the center of attention for something other than a bad snap or holding penalty, a team knows things are going well.