By Bill Walton
The Packers came up short in a tough three-point loss to the Indianapolis Colts this afternoon.
The score does not tell the story.
In fact, the score could well have been more like 41-30 in favor of the Packers. Dropped passes, dropped interceptions, and missed opportunities marred a game that, on paper, should have been a romp for the Packers over the Colts.
As they say, that’s why they play the games.
But look a little closer and it’s easy to see how the Packers played, and lost, this game.
Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams both had their hands on passes that they could, maybe even should, have picked off. Missed tackles in both the backfield and downfield seemed to come at the worst possible times, allowing the Colts to sustain offensive drives.
The Packers secondary allowed Colts WR Reggie Wayne to have the best game (13 catches for 212 yards and a touchdown) of his long career. It seemed whenever the Colts needed a big pass play, Wayne was somehow open.
A sack fumble by Nick Perry was rightly, if not popularly ruled roughing because Perry hit Andrew Luck with his helmet first. Pre-snap penalties also came at inopportune times and kept Colts drives alive or slowed down Packers drives.
The Packers offensive line allowed Rodgers to be sacked too many times, including twice in a row during their next-to-final drive of the game. Rodgers also coughed up another interception when he tried to force the ball to Finley on the sidelines.
Packers receivers dropped passes that were catchable. Packers cornerback Sam Shields, whose tackling and pass defense were both improved in this game, was wrongly called for defensive pass interference, lending more credence to the concept that NFL referees, replacement or regular, need to be sent back to school for remedial OPI/DPI instruction.
Three packers were injured and did not return to the game. Running back Cedrick Benson (ankle), defensive tackle B.J. Raji (lower leg), and tight end Jermichael Finley (shoulder) all went down in the game. And two missed field goals, one early in the second half and one that could have tied the game and sent it to overtime, were opportunities missed.
This game certainly featured some positive plays for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers used his wheels to pick up several long gains, and led the team in rushing.
When Rodgers had time to throw he was able to work the ball downfield. His second quarter touchdown pass to Randall Cobb was a great pass only a few quarterbacks could make. Running back Alex Green had a nice 41-yard run to set up the final Packers touchdown.
Defensive lineman Mike Neal, added to the roster after coming off his suspension, logged his fist sack of the season. Punter Tim Masthay had another solid game, at one point launching a punt that went 70 yards in the air from the Packers end zone and averaging 43.3 net yards on seven punts in the game.
Rookie cornerback Casey Hayward picked off a pass intended for Reggie Wayne to stop a Colts drive late. Charles Woodson had a couple of big passes defensed, as did Tramon Williams and Shields. And we got to yell KUUUUUHHHN as John Kuhn scored the Packers first touchdown on the ground behind the left side of the offensive line.
It’s easy to say, and some will, that the Colts didn’t beat the Packers – the Packers beat the Packers. The feeling during the first half was that despite some problems, they were able to overcome and the Packers had control of the game.
Leading 21-3 at halftime and with possession first in the second half, the Packers should have come out and run off a long drive to go up 28-3. Then they could have kept the pressure on with a strong lead.
That didn’t happen.
Rather, the Colts did everything they needed to do to pull this game out. With a couple of exceptions, notably the two-play go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, especially on offense the Packers looked like a different team, with problems they couldn’t overcome, in the second half. That is what happened.
There is room for improvement. The Packers know it. The fans know it.
Here’s to making those improvements, because they’ll be needed when the Packers visit Houston next Sunday night to take on the 4-0 Texans.