Rodgers was intercepted on the ensuing possession, leading to a Hartley field goal to push the Saints’ lead to 27-21. Two drives later, Rodgers completed passes of 8, 7, 6, and 17 yards before zipping the go-ahead TD pass to Nelson with 7 minutes to play.

“We were put in a ton of adverse situations. I mean, one after another,” Harrell said. “They stole the momentum from us after I fumbled and they scored, and then we come back and throw a pick the next drive. We seemed pretty flat.

“But the team did a great job of answering. Then, when we finally stole some momentum back, we get a fumble and they don’t give it to us. Another spot where it’s like, ‘Man, we can’t catch a break.’ But we finally caught a break on that field goal.”

Indeed they did. After Sproles’ fumble that wasn’t – he definitely coughed it up after a hit from Dezman Moses and before hitting the ground – the Saints drove to the Packers’ 25-yard line. On fourth-and-4, out trotted Hartley, who promptly nailed a 43-yarder to momentarily give New Orleans a 30-28 lead.

But regular referee Jeff Triplette’s crew flagged the Saints for holding – adding to the grassy-knoll conspiracy theorists’ case for a make-up call was the fact that Triplette failed to identify the offender, tight end David Thomas – forcing a re-kick. Hartley lined up for a 53-yarder, then a 48-yarder after Packers rookie defensive lineman Mike Daniels jumped offsides. Finally, the kick went off – and sailed wide left, leaving the Packers to run out the clock.

“What we were coming off last week with all the distractions throughout the whole week, all the nonsense we put up with, I thought our team did a really good job of staying focused on the task at hand,” veteran center Jeff Saturday said. “I was real proud of the guys for the way they stepped up and played.

“I think it unifies you as a team. I think you see as a team what you can endure. And I think that builds a lot of confidence, it builds a lot of character, it just forges you as a team – that you see, ‘Hey, look man, things can go wrong, and we’ve still got the type of team that we can win these games.’ That’s why you stay in the battle, never lose your focus. I was real proud of the effort.”