GREEN BAY, Wis. — Jordan Todman set the tone early for the Indianapolis Colts on special teams and Andrew Luck made the clutch throws late.
In between, the defense made just enough plays to hold off Green Bay despite the Packers’ frantic fourth quarter.
The Colts survived for a 31-26 win on Sunday after letting an 18-point lead with 9:35 left nearly disappear.
Todman had a 99-yard return for a touchdown on the opening kickoff, Frank Gore rushed for two touchdowns and Luck shook off two interceptions in the first quarter to finish with 281 yards passing and a touchdown.
"Not an ideal start offensively … from my game, the two interceptions. Like anything, you’ve got to move on," Luck said. "The defense built up strong early, which was huge. Then made enough plays at the end to win."
Indianapolis (4-5) heads into a bye week with a confidence-building victory after withstanding Aaron Rodgers’ comeback attempt.
"Everybody knew exactly where we were and what the stakes were. It’s a whole different world today, right now," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.
Rodgers’ 3-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb with 3:29 left got Green Bay (4-4) within five, capping a 14-point spurt in four-plus minutes. Rodgers finished 26 of 43 for 297 yards with three scores and an interception.
Luck responded on the Colts’ next drive with what Pagano called "two unbelievable plays."
The quarterback dodged a potential sack by blitzing safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to throw a 20-yard pass on third-and-10 with 3:07 left to tight end Jack Doyle.
Luck also found T.Y. Hilton for a 27-yard completion on third-and-2 with 2 minutes left to put the game away. He finished 23 of 36, throwing both interceptions to safety Clinton-Dix.
"We didn’t play good enough, I’m disappointed, I’m irritated, the fact that we were not sharp as a football team," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
The Colts, who had allowed an NFL-worst 31 sacks coming into the game, gave their quarterback decent protection. Luck was sacked twice.
Luck maneuvered out of other tight spots, including a 7-yard scramble on a bootleg on third-and-1 with 37 seconds left in the second quarter. He deftly engineered a 15-play, 96-yard drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Donte Moncrief with 11 seconds left to give Indianapolis a 21-10 halftime lead.
"Got to look at the tape, but I got to guess and say that those guys did one heck of a job and gave him some time, and he bought some time like he always does," Pagano said. "Really proud of that group."
Familiar problems surfaced early for the Packers, who lost their second straight game. The offense had trouble getting going until the fourth quarter.
But the defense gave up at least 30 points for a second straight game, and special teams also hurt them.
Todman’s kickoff return to open the game seemed to be a Green Bay buzz-killer.
"We’ve all got to be a little mentally tougher. I don’t understand the way the sideline was after that first play. We go down, let’s get a field goal and we’ll win the game. It’s 7-3 early on. We’ve got to be a little tougher. That’s the mark of a team," Rodgers said.
A persistent squirrel livened up the crowd at Lambeau Field.
The squirrel first made its appearance in the first half, then returned late in the third quarter. With the Packers driving at about the Colts 12, the squirrel dashed along the goal line, forcing the officials to call timeout. The squirrel finally went out of bounds, but not before causing a stir on social media.
The Packers had to settle for a 27-yard field goal with 1:46 left to get within 24-13. No word on if the squirrel made the traditional Lambeau Leap to celebrate.
KICKING IT OFF
Josh Ferguson had the block on Clinton-Dix at around the Colts 25 to spring Todman on the opening kickoff. It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown against Green Bay since Nov. 9, 2014, when the Chicago Bears’ Chris Williams returned one for a score.
Todman added a 61-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.
Indianapolis has a bye week before returning home to face Tennessee on Nov. 20
Green Bay begins a stretch of three straight road games with a trip to Tennessee on Nov. 13.