JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jameis Winston and the hurricane-displaced Saints looked right at home in northeast Florida against Green Bay with a 38-3 victory — no doubt to the delight of fans rebuilding homes and lives back in New Orleans.
Winston passed for five touchdowns, New Orleans intercepted reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers twice, and the Saints kicked off the post-Drew Brees era with a strikingly dominant opening victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
The game, originally scheduled for the Superdome, was moved while the New Orleans area continues to clean up wreckage left by Hurricane Ida, which struck southeast Louisiana as a Category 4 storm on Aug. 29, 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated the same region.
After canceling their final preseason game and practicing two weeks in the Dallas area, the Saints looked as sharp and inspired as any club with such distractions could have hoped.
Winston, who led the NFL with 30 interceptions in his last season as a starter with Tampa Bay in 2019, was largely judicious and accurate in going 14 of 20 for 148 yards without an interception. The only risky throw that backfired on him — a deflected pass caught by Packers defensive back Darnell Savage in the end zone — was negated by a contested roughing-the-passer penalty called against edge rusher Z’Darius Smith.
The penalty set up the second touchdown catch of the game by Juwan Johnson, who came in with four career catches and was converted from receiver to a tight end this offseason.
On the day before his 25th birthday, Johnson also converted a screen pass into a 12-yard, first-down gain on fourth-and-7 in the second quarter, when the game was still in doubt. He capped that drive with a leaping catch in the end zone on fourth-and-2. The two fourth-down conversions highlighted a pivotal 14-play drive that consumed 10 minutes.
Green Bay fans seemed to outnumber Saints fans in a crowd announced at 35,242 for what was officially a Saints home game. But they left disappointed in a day that could not have gone much worse for Rodgers, who was pulled with nearly 11 minutes left.
He finished 15 of 28 for 133 yards and no TDs. He led one drive to a field goal at the end of the first half.
The Packers squandered a chance to trim their deficit when Rodgers’ wobbly pass under pressure was intercepted by rookie defensive back Paulson Adebo at the New Orleans 7 early in the third quarter.
On Green Bay’s next drive, Marcus Williams intercepted Rodgers’ deep overthrow and returned it to the Packers 12, setting up Winston’s 10-yard TD to Chris Hogan.
FAST START: The Saints did not punt in the first half.
New Orleans took the opening kickoff for a field goal and led 10-0 after Alvin Kamara took a short forward pitch from Winston as he crossed behind the offensive line, then slipped multiple tackle attempts to squirm into the end zone from 3 yards. That officially went down as Winston’s first regular-season TD pass as a Saint, and he helped set it up with a 10-yard scramble on third-and-8.
INJURIES: Packers tight end Josiah Deguara took a knee to the head from Saints DE Marcus Davenport while attempting a block in the third quarter. He left with concussion symptoms. ... Savage left in the second half with a shoulder injury.