GREEN BAY, Wis. — Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano has seen up close how frustrating it can be to cover a quarterback who can extend plays with his legs.
The Colts’ Andrew Luck has done it before to other teams. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is one of the NFL’s best in that department.
Pagano’s defense will try to contain Rodgers and the Packers’ resurgent passing game when Indianapolis visits Lambeau Field on Sunday.
"It gets frustrating because hopefully you can get them in some third-and-long situations," Pagano said about Rodgers’ penchant to move in and out of the pocket. "Then, you have to be very, very smart on how you rush them. … You can have everybody covered and he takes off and beat you with his legs."
It is not an ideal play for the Packers, but more of a necessity of late.
Rodgers led the Packers (4-3) in last week’s 33-32 loss to Atlanta with 60 yards on six carries. He threw for 246 yards and four touchdowns.
Running backs Eddie Lacy are James Starks have been sidelined by injuries. Receivers Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery, who can also line up in the backfield, also missed the Atlanta game.
That left even more of the burden in the offense on the passing game. When receivers weren’t open and Rodgers had space, he took off for big plays.
"It’s been a good weapon for us on third down on times. But again, it’s a secondary thing," Rodgers said.
The Packers probably won’t stray from that philosophy against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL (287.8 yards per game).
Pass coverage has been a problem for Green Bay, too. The Packers have been hit by injuries at cornerback, where they’re without starters Sam Shields and Damarious Randall.
Quinten Rollins returned to practice at midweek after missing three games. He was limited following a groin injury. But another cornerback, Demetri Goodson, was added to the injury report after going through the concussion protocol this week.
Maybe the passing game for the Colts (3-5) can get going again on the road after a disheartening 30-14 loss last week to Kansas City. The offensive line allowed six sacks and more hits on Luck.
This explains in part why Luck was Indianapolis’ leading rusher against the Chiefs with 60 yards on nine carries.
"One, you handle it by moving onto next week and fixing what you need to fix," Luck said about frustration on offense. "What can you do about it? It’s the next game. That’s all that matters."
Other notes and things to watch ahead of Sunday’s game:
CORNER CONCERN: If Rollins can go, he would start across from LaDarius Gunter at cornerback. The Packers did a good job last week of containing a hobbled Julio Jones, the Falcons’ star receiver. Now they’ll have to handle Colts wideout T.Y. Hilton. The Packers will again need the pass rush to get to the quarterback to help force throws.
CLIMBING THE CHARTS: Luck has moved within striking distance of catching two MVP winners. He’s 48 passing attempts from moving past Bert Jones (2,464) for No. 3 in Colts history, one 300-yard game from a tie with John Unitas for No. 2 in franchise history (26), and 47 yards rushing to pass Jones (1,356) for second all-time among Colts quarterbacks.
DEPTH CHART: Injuries to Cobb and Montgomery allowed rookie receivers Trevor Davis and Geronimo Allison to pick up valuable experience against Atlanta, where they each caught their first career touchdown passes . Their play should give coach Mike McCarthy confidence to use them down the stretch as he continues to try to make up for his depleted running back corps.
ADAM BOMB: If the game comes down to a late field goal, nobody’s been better than Adam Vinatieri . He’s made an NFL-record 43 consecutive field goals, hitting his last nine from 50 or more yards. With one more field goal from 40 to 49 yards he will pass Gary Anderson (147) for No. 2 on the league’s career list.
MEMORY LANE: The last time these teams met in October 2012 was one of the most emotional games in Colts history. Coach Chuck Pagano had just been diagnosed with leukemia and Reggie Wayne had 13 catches for 212 yards and the winning score in the final minute to give the Colts’ an amazing come-from-behind win. After the game, team owner Jim Irsay delivered the game ball to Pagano in his hospital room. Wayne had played for Pagano at the University of Miami and had just been reunited with Pagano, who was in his first season as Indy’s coach.