INDIANAPOLIS—The Colts were dead in the water. They were a young team one play away from having the book closed on them, as Aaron Rodgers put it.
A team that had won just three games in the last 19 was trailing 21-3 to a team that was 15-1 a year ago. A rookie quarterback was trying to match wits with last year’s NFL MVP. The large contingent of Packers fans at Lucas Oil Stadium were poised to celebrate a win that would put the Packers over the .500 mark for the first time this season, and ignite a run to the top of the NFC North.
No one considered the possibility the Colts would rally for a 30-27 win. It was seemingly impossible, until cornerback Jerraud Powers stepped in front of James Jones along the right sideline and intercepted a Rodgers pass on just the fourth play of the second half.
You could almost hear a collective, “Uh, oh,” fall from the mouths of the Packers faithful, the cheeseheads to whom Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians referred, when he challenged Colts fans to drown out the invaders.
That’s exactly what Powers’ interception did, because other than for a two-play punch provided by Alex Green and Jones in a drive in which the Packers reclaimed the lead at 27-22 with 4:34 left to play, there was almost nothing for Packers fans to cheer in the second half.
They just inexplicably went dead in the second half. The same offense that appeared to be regaining its form from 2011, reverted to the unit that was sacked eight times and shutout in Seattle.
How could this have happened? That’s the question Packers fans are asking themselves and each other, as they try to make sense of Sunday’s collapse in Indianapolis.
Maybe it was the balance between run and pass the Packers lost when Cedric Benson left the game in the second quarter with a foot injury. The Packers ran the ball 12 times in the first half and Rodgers wasn’t sacked; they ran it just six times in the second half and Rodgers was sacked five times.
Or maybe it was the loss of B.J. Raji to an ankle injury in the first half. Without Raji, the Packers couldn’t stop the run in the second half and that allowed the Colts the kind of balance the Packers didn’t have, and left the Packers defense guessing between run and pass.
All of that is true, but what’s most alarming about what happened in the second half is that the Colts’ defense, which is not to be confused with the 49ers’, challenged the Packers. The Colts rolled their cornerbacks up, daring the Packers’ receivers to win the one-on-ones.
Yeah, the Colts played a lot of double-high safety, but a lot less than you’d expect of a group missing two of its best cornerbacks. On the third-and-14 play that preceded Mason Crosby’s miss from 52 yards, the Colts rolled up all of their defensive backs. There were no deep safeties. It was a green light to attack, yet, the Packers managed only an 8-yard completion to Jones.
"They were very aggressive with us,” Mike McCarthy said. “We have to start gashing people.”
Rodgers blamed himself for missing Jordy Nelson on a deep ball in the Packers’ opening possession of the game. Nelson had gotten behind his defender and was 2-3 steps in the clear near the goal line when Rodgers’ throw sailed beyond Nelson’s reach.
“My performance? I can’t turn the ball over. If I do that and we play 60 minutes, we’ll probably win these games,” Rodgers said.
A team that consistently won the turnover battles last year is not winning them this year. Even when it got an interception by rookie cornerback Casey Hayward that canceled outstanding field position for the Colts early in the fourth quarter, the Packers couldn’t capitalize.
“We just didn’t play very well in the second half. We turned the ball over, didn’t change field position, didn’t score any points until the end,” Rodgers said.
Time of possession was a huge problem; the Colts had the football more than 10 minutes longer than the Packers had it. Third-down conversions were a problem, too. The Colts converted eight of 20; the Packers converted just four of 13.
Yardage favored the Colts by 108 yards! Hey, that’s not Packers football.
So, we ask, what’s wrong? Answers may or may not be forthcoming. All we have for now are questions. Additional coverage - Oct. 7