64F Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI
The Green Bay Packers are seething about a call that cost them a victory in their last game.
The New Orleans Saints have been upset at the league for quite some time but have no one to blame but themselves for their winless start.
Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees each threw three touchdown passes in last year's entertaining season opener between these clubs, but 2011 may feel like a long time ago for teams that have combined for one victory heading into Sunday's matchup at Lambeau Field.
The story of Week 3 became Green Bay's 14-12 loss at Seattle on Monday night on Golden Tate 's 24-yard TD catch as time expired. The NFL said Tuesday that the wrong call was made because Tate should have been whistled for offensive pass interference, although it still appeared that Packers safety M.D. Jennings had clear control of the ball in the end zone.
Replacement officials appeared to rule simultaneous possession, giving Tate the touchdown.
The Packers (1-2) were furious with the turn of events, and Rodgers vented on his weekly radio show.
"I just feel bad for the fans," Rodgers said. "They pay good money and the game is being tarnished by an NFL who obviously cares more about saving a little money then having the integrity of the game diminish a little bit."
Coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged the difficult set of circumstances, saying the team returned after the long flight to a scene of protesting Green Bay fans. He also insisted that the Packers are looking forward to using the short week to prepare for the 0-3 Saints.
"We need to stay focused," McCarthy said. "We're not going to get any help. I know this is going to be a story that everybody wants to continue to talk about, and frankly I'm not going to act like it's not there. This is a play that I'm sure we'll see on TV as we move on in our lives. That's the facts of our business, that's the beauty of what Steve Sabol has created, God rest his soul.
"The fact of the matter is we're about New Orleans. We're in tune with staying true to the integrity of the Green Bay Packers , how we conduct ourselves, being professional during a tough time, during a challenge."
Brees and the Saints were critical of the NFL throughout the offseason for the ruling that has caused the season-long suspensions of coach Sean Payton and linebacker Jonathan Vilma , as well as shorter bans to others found culpable in the bounty investigation.
New Orleans, however, is tired of using the suspensions as an excuse. The Saints, who fell 27-24 in overtime last Sunday at home to lowly Kansas City, last started this poorly when they began 0-4 in 2007.
"We're definitely struggling a little bit," guard Jahri Evans said. "Sean Payton is a big part of this team since I've been here, but he's not here now, so that's something we can't dwell on or expect him to walk through the door because it's not going to happen. We have to just go out there and get it done."
Brees is tied for fourth in the league with 904 passing yards, but he's been uneven with seven touchdowns to five interceptions.
The Saints ranked sixth in the league with 132.9 rushing yards per game last season but are down to 92.7 for the 22nd-best mark this year.
"We're definitely still trying to find our rhythm," Brees said. "Unfortunately we haven't been able to put it together on a consistent basis."
These were the league's top scoring teams a year ago, with Green Bay averaging 35.0 points and New Orleans 34.2.
The Saints are still averaging 27.7 per game, but the Packers are down to a mere 19.0. Rodgers has been sacked more than anyone, going down eight times in the first half Monday to bring that season total to 16.
The reigning league MVP had 45 touchdown passes a season ago but has managed three in 2012.
"Clearly the Seattle game was different than the first two as our offense (and) what they were challenged with," McCarthy said. "The first two games, I'd say they challenged us to run the ball. Particularly Monday night we were challenged to throw the ball. We didn't handle that very well."
The Packers won last season's meeting 42-34. Brees threw for 419 yards while Rodgers completed 27 of 35 passes for 312.
The previous meeting between these quarterbacks came before both captured their Super Bowl MVPs. Brees threw for four touchdowns and 323 yards in a 51-29 home win in 2008.