INDIANAPOLIS—One play changed the game. What impact will it have on the Packers’ season?
Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers’ interception of an Aaron Rodgers pass on the Packers’ opening possession of the second half, kick-started a Colts rally that culminated with a 30-27 win that qualifies as one of the biggest upsets of the NFL season.
“Disappointing loss for us, especially coming off a win. Being ahead at halftime 21-3, talking about what we needed to accomplish in the second half, we didn’t get it done,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said in a to-the-point postgame address to the media.
“We’re not where we need to be and that’s obvious,” McCarthy added.
Leading by 18 at halftime, the Packers appeared to be exactly where they needed to be, which is to say in control of the game and a score away from putting the young Colts away.
“We just didn’t make any plays. They got good pressure in the second half. We couldn’t put them away,” Rodgers said. “There was an opportunity to put them down four scores and probably close the book.”
That’s what the Packers were attempting to do when they began the second half aggressively. Their first four plays were intended to be passes; the fourth play resulted in the interception.
“The ball got tipped slightly. It went from back shoulder to front shoulder,” Rodgers said of his pass for James Jones along the right sideline. Powers stepped in front of Jones to make the interception.
Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck seized the opportunity to cut the Colts’ deficit to 21-10, which he did with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Allen. The rally was on.
It culminated with a 28-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri that gave the Colts a 22-21 lead with 8:08 to play in the game, but the Packers roared back on the strength of Alex Green’s 41-yard run. On the next play, Rodgers found Jones for an 8-yard touchdown pass that gave the Packers a 27-22 lead with 4:34 to play.
Luck then experienced the highlight of his young pro career when he executed a veteran-like, game-winning, 80-yard touchdown drive. He converted a crucial third-and-12 play with a 15-yard toss to Reggie Wayne just inside the two-minute warning, and followed that with an 18-yard strike to Wayne that carried to the Packers 14.
On third-and-7 from the 11, Luck scrambled up the middle for a first down at the Packers 4, and then threw to Wayne for what would be the game-winning touchdown on the next play, with 35 seconds left to play.
Rodgers completed three passes to move the Packers quickly into field goal range. With eight seconds to play, Mason Crosby missed from 51 yards. He had missed earlier from 52 yards.
“We’re not doing a very good job of handling the football. We had a chance to tie the game at the end and didn’t get it done,” McCarthy said. “They played with a lot of focus and energy, but I’m focused on my football team and we did not play the way we need to play.
“You’re ahead 21-3 at halftime and you expect to keep that going.”
The Packers were without running back Cedric Benson in the second half, as well as being without nose tackle B.J. Raji. The Packers lost tight end Jermichael Finley to a shoulder injury in the second half. All three injuries appeared to contribute to the Packers’ fall.
“That’s no excuse. It’s about having clean plays, clear plays,” McCarthy said.
Without Benson, the Packers appeared to turn away from the running game, despite having an 18-point lead. Would they have run the ball more and attempted to protect the lead had Benson not been injured?
“I’m not sure,” Rodgers said.
Not having Raji limited what the Packers could do schematically on defense, and the Colts’ ability to run the ball in the second half kept the Packers from making the Colts one-dimensional.
“It was definitely a momentum changer,” McCarthy said of Powers’ interception. “It was definitely a big one for them.”
How big will it be for the Packers? That’s the big question as the Packers sit at 2-3.
Additional coverage - Oct. 7