GREEN BAY — All the promise the Packers’ passing offense has shown in recent weeks was back on display in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against the Colts.
Unfortunately for the Packers, it just came three quarters too late.
Green Bay got off to a slow start during its eventual 31-26 loss to Indianapolis and that early hole ultimately prevented the offense’s fourth-quarter flurry from becoming a fourth-quarter comeback at Lambeau Field.
Trailing by 18 with 9 minutes, 35 seconds remaining, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense orchestrated a pair of touchdown-producing series in a span of 6 minutes to pull back within one score of Indianapolis.
Green Bay generated 155 of its 405 total yards on those two series with touchdown completions to Davante Adams and Randall Cobb pulling the Packers back into contention.
“We have to come out firing earlier,” said Adams, who finished with four catches for 42 yards. “We can’t sit back and expect a team like that to lie down for us and then come out with all the energy in the world in the fourth quarter because it’s not going to be enough.”
Something clicked for the offense after falling behind 31-13. A 40-yard pass from Rodgers to Adams paved the way to the receiver’s 2-yard touchdown catch with 7:43 remaining.
Cobb wasn’t sure how much action he’d see after being a game-time decision to play through the hamstring injury that sidelined him last week against Atlanta, but he played some critical snaps down the stretch.
After Green Bay’s defense forced a three-and-out, Cobb’s 3-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers ended a seven-play, 80-yard drive that closed the deficit to 31-26 with 3:29 left.
Asked what changed in the fourth quarter, Cobb said it boiled down to everyone on offense playing with a heightened sense of urgency.
“Desperation pretty much,” said Cobb, who finished with two catches for 14 yards. “We were at that point where we needed to make some plays and give ourselves an opportunity to win the game. We were able to make the plays then.”
The Packers registered 138 total yards and 10 points in the first half, but players in the locker room were more concerned about the production they left on the field.
The offense had to settle for a Mason Crosby 34-yard field goal on its first series and didn’t add to its point total despite the first of two Ha Ha Clinton-Dix interceptions giving Green Bay the ball at the Indianapolis 29.
The Packers were able to even out the time of possession battle by game’s end, but trailed 17:45-12:15 at halftime thanks in part to the Colts controlling the second quarter.
“It’s all good in the fourth quarter scoring that many points and making a comeback,” right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. “But we need to play with that energy from the get-go and put points up and sustain drives, and find ways to win these games.
“That’s two weeks in a row now where we’re losing by a score. We need to find ways to close these things out.”
Green Bay was able to move the ball coming out of halftime, but Colts defensive back Darius Butler stopped the drive with an interception at the Indianapolis 33.
The Packers rallied to finish with 405 total yards and 26 points, but too much of that production came in the fourth quarter for the offense’s liking.
Green Bay now faces three consecutive road games against Tennessee, Washington and Philadelphia before returning home next month against Houston.
“This is our second loss at home. You never want to lose at home,” Cobb said. “You always want to protect your home turf and we haven’t done a great job of that this season.
“We let one get away. We had opportunities through the game. We have to finish drives. We have to put points on the board. We have to take care of the ball.”
In and out: Defensive back Micah Hyde left with a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter and didn’t return.
Cobb and receiver Ty Montgomery were able to play after sitting out against Atlanta, another positive sign for an offense that’s been tested by injuries in the first half of the season.
Montgomery, who finished with 10 touches for 91 total yards, busted a 24-yard carry on his first play from scrimmage on Sunday after missing last week’s game against the Falcons with an illness.
Linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring), tight end Jared Cook (ankle) and running back James Starks (knee) didn’t play against the Colts, but appear to be nearing their return after practicing in a limited capacity this past week.
“You have to play to your strength of what you have. We’re trying to do that the best we can right now,” Cobb said.
“We’re never going to use injuries as a way out of anything. We’re never going to use who’s out there as a way out of anything because it’s always next man up here. Regardless of who that man is, we expect them to do their job as well as they can and give us a chance to win games.”
Todman takes off: Jordan Todman swung the momentum into the Colts favor when he returned Crosby’s opening kickoff for a 99-yard touchdown.
Fielding the kickoff outside the left hash mark at the 1-yard line, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound running back found an open seam on the right side to get into the open field.
It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown in Todman’s four-year NFL career.
“It was a deep right kick, it just kind of hung up there,” Crosby said. “They had a good return set up across the field and found a seam. We’ll look at it, evaluate it like we do everything else and make sure we correct it.”
Todman then followed up the touchdown with another 61-yard return to the Green Bay 45 at the start of the second quarter, helping set up an Adam Vinatieri 28-yard field goal.
The Packers countered the two big returns and a 48-yard missed field goal with a strong performance from punter Jake Schum, who averaged 48.3 yards on his four punts with a 47.5 net average.
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