By Mark Metzler
What the Indianapolis Colts wanted to give the Packers Sunday, the Green Bay Packers were all too happy to give back. Well, in truth, the Packers probably weren’t happy to do it, but they gave the game back to the Colts anyhow, falling 34-31 in overtime.
With the failure of the key fourth and one near the end of the game, it looked like the Colts would easily ice the game away. All they had to do was make a first down, but a number of key holding penalties by the Colts gave the Packers new life.
Still, after two incompletions, the Packers were 94 yards away with less than 1:20 to play. That was until Aaron Rodgers connected with Marquez Valdes-Scantling on that bomb down the middle. Then two passes to Davante Adams and then the Packers had a chance to win the game in regulation, but the team had to settle for a Mason Crosby field goal to take the game to overtime.
It really did look good at that point. The Packers won the toss and had momentum, but Valdes-Scantling fumble iced the game. You could tell how awful he felt as the camera panned over to the sideline.
For half of the game on Sunday, the Packers looked like a team that could compete for the Super Bowl. In the first half the team put up 28 points against one of the top defenses in football and held a very good offense to 14 points. That type of half is good enough to win it all.
Of course, one half of football does not make a game, and the Colts made the right adjustments at halftime to dominate the second half of the game. In the second half, the Colts looked like Super Bowl contenders.
Their defense came up big when it needed to, and I think that Philip Rivers is still really one of the better quarterbacks in the game. He can pick teams apart. Plus, the Colts really are a talented team both offensively and defensively. They have everything they need on the offense with a great quarterback, good running backs, good wide receivers, good tight ends and an excellent offensive line. The defense is very sound, as well. They have good linebackers and defensive backs. Having acquired DeForest Bruckner is a big help for them, too.
I do think the Colts will be around for a while in the AFC playoffs. I think they are one of the top three teams – with the Chiefs and Steelers probably being better. Don’t be surprised if you see the Colts in the AFC Championship game, maybe even the Super Bowl.
Still, the Packers should have won the game. It’s possible the Packers were outcoached. In the Matt LaFleur era, that has seldom happened. Defensively, with coordinator Mike Pettine, the team lacks creativity and courage. Not a good combination.
For the Packers, there was plenty of blame to go around. Rodgers threw an early interception where Valdes-Scantling had his man beat and Rodgers mishandled a snap from Corey Linsley that ended up in a turnover early in the game. Darrius Shepherd’s fumbled kick return hurt. Having Tyler Ervin back will help with returns, running and receiving.
Linsley was hurt early in the game and didn’t return. Elgton Jenkins moved over to center and did a good job, and rookie Jon Runyan did a good again filling in at guard.
As far as the Packers’ rookies are concerned, only Runyan, a sixth-round pick, and Kamal Martin, a linebacker and fifth-round pick, are making any difference at all.
I bring up the terrible draft again because Michael Pittman Jr. (34th pick), who had a touchdown for the Colts, was available when the Packers traded up to pick Jordan Love, who has been inactive all season. Tee Higgins (33rd pick), who is a really nice receiver for the Bengals, was also available.
The old adage is that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I am hoping that’s the case for Valdes-Scantling and the rest of the Packers. It was good to see his teammates coming over to comfort him after the fumble. Maybe this will help make him into a top-level talent. Maybe.