GREEN BAY (TSN-WSAU) The regular referees are back, right?
Less than a week after being robbed by the replacement refs in 14-12 loss at Seattle, the Green Bay Packers endured another sloppy finish and held on for a 28-27 win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes for the Packers (2-2), including a go-ahead 11-yard strike to Jordy Nelson with seven minutes remaining.
After Nelson's grab, New Orleans' Darren Sproles fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but was ruled down by contact. Out of challenges, the Packers were forced to accept the botched call, and the Saints took advantage with a march to the Green Bay 25.
Garrett Hartley drilled a 43-yard field goal from there, but this time the newly reinstated officials got it right with a holding call on David Thomas, which negated the kick.
After an encroachment call on Green Bay, Hartley pulled his 48-yard attempt wide left and the Packers took over with 2:49 to go. They were able to run out the clock and secure the win courtesy of a tough catch by James Jones on 3rd-and-3.
Rodgers finished with 319 yards and an interception on 31-of-41 passing, while Cedric Benson ran for 84 yards on 18 carries for Green Bay. Nelson caught eight passes for 93 yards, Jones added a pair of touchdown grabs and Greg Jennings scored in the second quarter before departing with a groin injury.
"You can't help but have that feeling of 'Here we go again' and unfortunately there was a little bit of that on some of the calls," said Rodgers. "But we were able to overcome it. I think it says a lot about the character of this team. This was an important win for us."
Drew Brees completed 35-of-54 passes for 446 yards and three touchdowns without and interception for the Saints (0-4), who have dropped four straight to begin a season for the first time since 2007.
"We need to find a way to win," said Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer. "(The players) are going to be a little bit disheartened but we're going to fight back and we're going to climb the mountain."
With a 20-yard first-quarter scoring pass to Marques Colston, Brees tied Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas for consecutive games with a touchdown pass (47).
"Obviously I'd like to be sitting here talking about (the record) after a win, but certainly it's significant to even be in the same realm as a guy like Johnny Unitas," said Brees.
Packers' backup quarterback Graham Harrell entered for one play late in the third quarter after Rodgers was injured on Malcolm Jenkins' facemask infraction, which gave Green Bay a new set of downs at the New Orleans 4.
Harrell's first NFL snap proved disastrous, as the Texas Tech product tripped over the foot of center Jeff Saturday and botched a handoff to Benson.
Jenkins recovered the loose ball and Brees found Joe Morgan moments later for an 80-yard touchdown strike to give the Saints a 24-21 lead -- their first of the game -- with 3:49 left in the third quarter.
After a Packers three-and-out, Colston made a pair of 3rd-and-long grabs during a 57-yard march which resulted in Hartley's 27-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, which capped a run of 20 straight New Orleans points.
The teams then traded punts before Rodgers and Nelson connected for the go- ahead score. Randall Cobb had a 17-yard catch-and-run during the 57-yard touchdown trek, which ended when Nelson snared a slant, barreled over a defender, and fell across the goal line.
Looking to bounce back from Monday night's debacle, the Packers were in control early.
They grabbed a 7-0 lead on their second possession when Rodgers found Jones for a 12-yard touchdown. Nelson had catches of 15 and 18 yards during the 62-yard march.
The Saints responded on the ensuing drive when Brees found Colston for a 20- yard touchdown to cap a lengthy trek, but Green Bay answered with a pair of scores to go on top by a 21-7 count late in the second quarter.
First, Rogers found Jennings for a 9-yard touchdown -- the fourth different receiver he hit during an 80-yard drive which spanned four-plus minutes.
Following a Saints punt, the Packers took over at their own 3-yard line and unfurled a methodical march, which Rodgers and Jones finished with a 14-yard touchdown connection with 4:50 left in the first half.
New Orleans made it 21-14 when Brees found Sproles for a 6-yard score less than a minute before halftime, and Hartley tacked on a 20-yard field goal on the opening drive of the third quarter.
The Packers play the Colts in Indianapolis next Sunday.