Where do you even start with this game?
- We could start with Darrius Shepherd‘s fumbled kick return that came with a shade over 11 minutes left in a 28-28 contest and ultimately led to the Indianapolis Colts’ go-ahead field goal at the time.
- We could look at the Green Bay Packers four turnovers; a team that came into the game with five turnovers in nine games, having FOUR just in this one alone.
- Maybe you want to point out the four offsides penalties, two on Za’Darius Smith and two on Preston Smith, and ask what the hell they were thinking.
The ugly can not be ignored in this game. My takeaway from Sunday’s game is simple, however: The Packers proved they have the capability to beat anyone with this team.
Losing the turnover battle 4-2 and trying to win a game in the National Football League is a tough ask. No excuses, just a fact. Had you said the Packers turned it over four times on Sunday, had you told me the Smiths would be called for offsides over and over, that Philip Rivers went for 288 yards, three touchdowns and only one interception while Jonathan Taylor chipped in with 22 rushes for 90 yards, I, without a shred of doubt in my mind, would’ve assumed it was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game all over again. But it wasn’t. This went to overtime. This game hung in the balance until the game-winning kick by Rodrigo Blankenship in overtime to put the final nail in the coffin.
How was this game close?
One reason was the Packers offense humming in the first 30 minutes against the NFL’s top-rated defense. Green Bay went 33 yards to Davante Adams on the opening play, then eight yards to Allen Lazard before a fumbled center-to-quarterback exchange that Colts linebacker Darius Leonard dove on. A promising opening drive, a rare mistake between Corey Linsley and Aaron Rodgers.
At that point, even on the opening drive, the hope was the turnover wouldn’t lead to the offense losing steam. It didn’t. In the remaining drives of the first half, the Packers offense went: touchdown, punt, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown. Rodgers was getting large chunk plays in the passing game. Adams was grooving, the tight ends were getting involved, the Colts pass rush was non-existent. Green Bay was playing with a sense of urgency that was rewarded with a 28-14 halftime lead. They were shoving it in the face of the No. 1-rated defense.
Then all hell broke loose.
In the third quarter the Packers went three-and-out twice and had possession of the ball for just a little over three minutes. The Colts started force-feeding Taylor, and a Packers run defense that has been gashed at times this year was once again showing it wasn’t up to the test. Them having to constantly be drained on the field with the time of possession pendulum swinging towards Indianapolis didn’t help. The Packers offense had lost its edge, and the Colts were pouncing on the opportunity.
The Packers defense stood tall at the beginning of the fourth quarter, holding the Colts to a field goal after shockingly stuffing Taylor on a 3rd and 2 run for a loss of two yards — 28-28 with 11 minutes left.
Shepherd had been returning kicks all afternoon. When I say he was returning kicks, I quite literally mean there were eight kickoffs, and he had returns on seven of them for an absolutely, positively remarkable average of 19.7 yards per return. I don’t know if the Colts strategy was to kick short of the end zone and make Shepherd return them but, if it was, tip of the cap to the Colts.
After the Blankenship field goal to make it 28-28 with 11 minutes left, there was one thought: Go have an MVP drive Rodgers. Go put this game to bed after all the chaos. Shepherd had other plans, fumbling the ensuing kickoff after receiving it at the 2-yard line and running up the near sideline as though two anchors were attached to his feet before coughing it up around the Packers 27-yard line. To the defense’s credit, backs against the wall, they were able to absorb the blow and hold the Colts to just a field goal again.
What happened in the last nine minutes of regulation and then overtime can’t be summarized in a sentence, in a paragraph or in an article.
The Packers turned it over on downs and then, while the Colts tried to run out the clock, they got called for holding over and over and over and over again. I’m assuming you have never seen something so bizarre watching a football game. I sure haven’t. It was play after play, and it was mind boggling. Because of that, the Packers were able to get one last crack at things and took advantage. A connection between Rodgers and Marquez Valdes-Scantling for 47 yards gave Green Bay a pulse, and Mason Crosby punched a kick through the uprights to send it to overtime.
We all know what happened next. Green Bay wins the toss in overtime. Valdes-Scantling fumbles. Curtains. Don’t be the loser blaming MVS; the Packers would not have gotten to the extra session without his contributions. There were plenty of other reasons why the Pack took the loss back with them.
Amidst all of the madness in Sunday’s game, the turnovers, the penalties, the lackluster third quarter, the Packers still had a chance to win against a damn good Colts team. The Packers put up 31 on a defense that came in allowing 19 points per game. For all the errors, the lapses in judgment by the Packers and them still having a chance in overtime, it showed something. It showed that this team is a legitimate threat in the NFC, something that many questioned the validity of before Sunday’s game. There are still flaws, still things that won’t be fixed during the duration of this season. But Sunday showed us you can put the Packers in the group with the Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams.