The Washington Post

New Orleans surprises with blowout

- BY BRETT MARTEL

JACKSONVIL­LE, FLA. — Jameis Winston and the hurricane-displaced New Orleans Saints looked right at home in northeast Florida against the Green Bay Packers with a 38-3 victory.

Winston passed for five touchdowns, New Orleans intercepte­d reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers twice, and the Saints kicked off the post-drew Brees era with a strikingly dominant opening victory over the Packers on Sunday.

“We knew that even though some people don’t have power, they’re going to find a way to watch the Saints,” linebacker and captain Demario Davis said. “That’s just what this team means to the city — and the city means the same to us.”

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 Aug. 29, 16 years to the day Hurricane Katrina devastated the same region.

After canceling their final preseason game and practicing for two weeks in the Dallas area, the Saints looked sharp and inspired.

“That was for the city,” Winston said. “We did that for them. We knew how much it would mean to get a great victory for that region. They’ve been through so much. . . . Hats off to them for their resilience because they motivated us. They inspired us to come out there and ball.”

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 for 20 for 148 yards without an intercepti­on.

“Drew always preached it’s about the decision, not the result,” Winston said, alluding to last season, when he served as a reserve and understudy to Brees in an effort to improve the longterm trajectory of his up-anddown career. “Sometimes the decision is throwing the ball away. Sometimes the decision is running, tucking. Sometimes the decision may be taking a sack.”

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 roughing-thepasser penalty called against edge rusher Za’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 a wide receiver to a tight end this offseason.

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 on a day that could not have gone much worse for Rodgers, who was pulled with nearly 11 minutes left.

He finished 15 for 28 for 133 yards with no touchdowns. He led one drive to a field goal at the end of the first half.

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