Indianapolis Colts 31 – 26 Green Bay Packers
Week 9 saw a down-on-their-luck Indianapolis Colts travel to Green Bay to face the Packers at Lambeau Field. The Packers, however, were apparently unaware of this, not showing a pulse until roughly 50 minutes into the game. The Colts opened the game strong, returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and held the lead from that point on until the game was over. A Packers offense that, in the previous two weeks had seemed to return to form against the Bears and Falcons, was exposed as nought but a mirage in a game that was not nearly as close as the final score would suggest.
Key Moments & Themes
Ha-Ha-Happy News First
We’ll start with what is likely the only positive to come from the game against the Colts. The Packers have been waiting all season for somebody in the secondary to step up and make some plays to help counter the injury plague sweeping across the position group. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix finally did so, helping to move the turnover margin on the season back in favour of the Packers.
Two first quarter interceptions of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck seemed to give the Packers a bit of momentum, the first turned into a field goal by the offense, and the second into a Jordy Nelson touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers.
Clinton-Dix added to this 2 interception game with a half sack of Andrew Luck, although he did whiff on a late fourth quarter sack attempt where he managed to get his hands onto Luck, who then escaped and passed for a game sealing third down conversion.
Turning Point – Colts Pre-Halftime Drive
Heading towards halftime, this game was still within reach. The Colts began a final drive of the half backed up at their own 4 yard line with 5 minutes on the clock. This was the opportune moment at which, on 3rd & 10, the Packers defense decided to continue its slide into Capersian mediocrity. Leaving a 5 yard cushion around a receiver camped upon the first down line, allowing the Colts to get out of trouble.
5 minutes and 96 yards later, Andrew Luck threw a dart to receiver Donte Moncrief, who grabbed the touchdown right in front of LaDarius Gunter. This, in my eyes, is the turning point as it’s the drive where the defense really collapsed.
Coming back out into the second half after giving up the 96 yard TD drive, the defense seemed lackluster and resigned, even the heretofore stout run defense being shredded by an octogenarian Frank Gore to the tune of 60 yards and 2 touchdowns on 19 carries.
Jeff Janis – The man, the myth, the disappointment
Third year receiver Jeff Janis has long confused Packers fans. From the Janis Believers, who view him as the second coming of Jerry Rice held down by a front office that refuses to utilize him, to those more sensible but still hopeful that he could turn his top-end speed/size combo (6’ 3”/219 lb.) into a rags-to-riches receiver story.
What we’ve seen this game, and this season, however, is that he may be a wasted roster spot. The knock on Janis was always his inability to truly learn the complexities of the offense, unable to option his route running based on the predication of the defense. This was tempered by the hope that one day he would be able to run more than a Go route.
Early in the 2nd quarter, Rodgers threw an absolute dime of a pass 60 yards in the air to Janis on a go that landed directly in both hands, and Janis was unable to complete a simple catch on which he had separation that could have been game changing in its results, putting the Packers in the red zone. If Janis can no longer run his one route with success, and continues to be disappeared on special teams, it may be time to look at his place on the roster spot.
Not Very Special Teams
While neither the offense nor defense of the Packers was impressive in this game, by far the ugliest was the special teams play. There was the very obvious giving up of the 99 yard opening kickoff return for a Colts touchdown, on which there appeared to be only 4 players on the left hand side of the field as the Packers kicked off, and required very little blocking to achieve.
There was the first quarter Mason Crosby missed field goal. There was the late-game punt out of bounds near midfield by Schum. That doesn’t even count the various returns past the 25 that the Packers kickoff/punt coverage teams allowed.
While the Packers special teams have improved much under coach Ron Zook, this was far more reminiscent of the unit under Slocum, a man not missed by many in the fan base. If the offense is going to continue to struggle, and the defense continue its descent, the team will need special teams to step up if they are to keep their head above the .500 water.
Ty Montgomery Player of the Week Award
I considered giving this award to Ty Montgomery for once again showing that, whether at receiver or running back, when McCarthy actually decides to use him, he can do big things. He broke a couple of big runs and catches out of the backfield that reminded us this can work.
However, I don’t really feel any player on the Packers roster deserves that this week. Nobody shined without later having a mistake that cost the team dearly (see the Clinton-Dix fudged sack on Luck late in the 4th quarter). Therefore, the award goes to the character who provided the fans at home and in the stadium with the greatest joy in this game; Squirrelly McSquirrelson.
My initial interest in the Packers twitter/podcast community began when the squirrel that appeared during the Minnesota Vikings game last year and spawned a conversation with our good friends over at Titletown Sound Off. So both for that reason, and the endless amount of pun-based entertainment you offered us on twitter dear squirrel, you get this weeks player of the week award, and I wish you an eternal supply of only the best quality nuts. However, if I see one more post about his ability to separate better than our receiver corp, I may break down.
1. Mike McCarthy has lost this team. I have been on and off the #FireMcCarthy bandwagon over the past season and a half. Sometimes clamoring for it, at other times being sensible and seeing him coach well.
The difference now is the team seems to have given up on him. Any group of players that believes in their coach will not lie down and allow somebody to trounce them like that. Too many times now we have heard the same clichés in his post game presser; ‘need to do better’, ‘need to get back to basics’, ‘saw some good things tonight’. Couple that with his almost unparalleled ability to refuse to adjust a game plan at half time and we see how this team has gone 9-11 over its last 20 games.
McCarthy may well be a good coach still on a fresh team, with the Packers however, it seems he has become stale. Change is needed, I am not certain it will come. Herein lies the downside of not having a traditional owner. Mark Murphy, Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson are effectively running an old boys club within which nobody will be held accountable for 5 years of coming up short despite having the best quarterback in football.
2. Looking ahead at the Packers remaining schedule, I think we’ll be lucky to see a 9-7 season, and I think the Lions are going to win this division. If the team continues to trend downwards, scraping out 5 wins from the back half of the season is going to be extremely hard work. At Tennessee this week is not seeming like the mid-season easy refresher game many thought it may be going into the season.
3. With a number of players all returning to limited practice last week from injuries (James Starks, Jared Cook) and a couple of others hopefully back on the mend over the coming week, I still have hope this team will improve. Fresh legs coming back from injury midway through the season could be the spark the team needs.
A little better health in the secondary and backfield, and maybe some actual, real life production out of the tight end position could reap dividends for the team as we fight to take back a division in which, despite all the doom and gloom, we are still only 1 game behind first place.
Hit me up on twitter @McCreadieSam and as always, Go Pack Go!