Packers collapse in 2nd half, fall to Colts 30-27
Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers never saw this one coming.
Green Bay had an 18-point halftime lead and seemed to be in
control Sunday afternoon.
Then, suddenly, Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne and the rest of the
emotionally-charged Colts turned things around on one of the
league’s marquee franchises.
Playing for an ailing coach Chuck Pagano, Luck rallied the Colts
in the second half, throwing for a career-high 362 yards and a
4-yard TD pass to Wayne with 35 seconds to go, giving Indy a
stunning 30-27 victory.
”Obviously, a tough week for them. They played with a lot of
emotion, a lot of energy,” McCarthy said. ”Frankly, I’m more
focused on my football team and my football team is not playing the
way we are capable of playing.”
Clearly, these are not the same Packers that spent most of last
season chasing a perfect record and a second straight Super Bowl
Green Bay (2-3) faces an uphill climb in the NFC North.
They’re still struggling to find an offensive rhythm, though it
looked as if they might break out of their funk in the first half
when Rodgers was 11 of 17 for 122 yards with two touchdown passes
to take a 21-3 lead.
But nothing worked in the second half.
Mason Crosby missed a 52-yard field goal in the third quarter
and a 51-yarder to the right with 3 seconds left in the game – a
kick that could have forced overtime.
The Packers’ defense failed to stop Indy on three third-down
conversions during their final drive.
And the only score the Packers mustered over the final 30
minutes came on an 8-yard TD toss from Rodgers to James Jones with
4:30 left in the game, which gave them a 27-22 lead.
Rodgers finished 21 of 33 for 243 yards with three touchdowns,
an interception and a big dose of frustration.
”We just didn’t make any plays,” the league’s reigning MVP
said. ”They got a little more aggressive in the second half, we
turned the ball over and got them into a two-score game and then we
kind of got back mentally into the game.”
By then, it was too late to stop a team that had a wild
emotional ride, starting with Monday morning’s announcement that
Pagano had been diagnosed with leukemia after players left for
their bye week.
Interim coach Bruce Arians acknowledged he was fighting back
tears when he spoke to reporters. From the sounds of it, so were
Luck and Wayne.
”I’m sure we were all lying to everybody the whole week, trying
to downplay it,” Luck said after throwing for a career-high 362
yards. ”I think we all went out there wanting to do it for Chuck
more than anything else. To see all the emotions on Mr. Irsay’s
face, BA’s, everyone in there, I think it’s one of the greatest
athletic moments I’ve ever been a part of.”
The sometimes emotional team owner, Jim Irsay, sniffled as he
spoke inside a silent locker room before dashing off to the
hospital where Pagano is undergoing treatment for leukemia. He
wanted to personally deliver the game ball to Pagano, who
celebrated his 52nd birthday Tuesday.
Pagano made it perfectly clear Friday, in an emotional email to
players and coaches, that he didn’t want guys playing for him; he
wanted the Colts (2-2) to play for themselves and match last
season’s victory total.
Turns out the players wanted this one even more for Pagano than
he wanted it for them.
”I’ve got 12 years of (special) games,” said Wayne, who has
known Pagano since the two were at the University of Miami together
in the late 1990s. ”But this did mean a lot, just with the whole
deal with how the week’s been going. You know, I talked to coach
Pagano and he wanted us to win so bad. Is it a high? Yeah. I don’t
necessarily have one other than the Super Bowl game. But it’s up
Team officials honored Pagano by hanging signs that read
(hash)Chuckstrong behind each goal post and wore lapel pins with
orange ribbons on a white background.
Luck and Wayne showed their support in another way.
The No. 1 draft pick was 31 of 55 with two touchdowns and one
interception, and ran for a TD, too.
Wayne finished with 13 receptions for a career-high 212 yards –
the second-highest total in Colts history behind Hall of Famer
Raymond Berry in 1957.
And Wayne wore the orange gloves, instead of the traditional
pink ones for breast cancer awareness month, because that’s the
color for leukemia patients.
”I just wanted to do something, you know, for Chuck,” Wayne
said. ”I had some equipment guys make some calls. If they (NFL
officials) fine me, they fine me, I really feel like that would be
a terrible thing to do, but if so, so be it, I’ll go ahead and take
the fine and do it for Chuck.”
The Colts dominated the second half.
Luck threw an 8-yard TD pass to Dwayne Allen and set up Adam
Vinatieri for a 50-yard field goal to make it 21-13 midway through
the third quarter. He then ran it in from 3 yards with 18 seconds
left to go in the quarter to get the Colts within 21-19.
A few minutes later, Vinatieri hit a 28-yard field goal to give
Indy its first lead, 22-21.
But Rodgers got Green Bay’s offense back in sync in a hurry.
Alex Green ran 41 yards on the Packers’ first play, and Rodgers
threw an 8-yard TD pass to James Jones on the next one to give the
Packers a 27-20 lead with 4:30 to go.
All the Packers had to do was stop Luck one more time to clinch
Luck and Wayne wouldn’t allow it.
”Chuck’s instilled a lot in us,” Wayne said. ”His whole motto
since day one, the first meeting has been team team, team, team.
Nothing else. So we’ve wanted to do it every week as a team. That’s
all we practice, that’s all we preach.”
NOTES: The Packers lost three starters during the game – running
back Cedric Benson (ankle), defensive tackle B.J. Raji (ankle) and
tight end Jermichael Finley (right shoulder). McCarthy did not have
immediate updates after the game. … Colts defensive end Robert
Mathis left with a knee sprain and did not return after trying on a
brace. … Wayne has catches in 100 consecutive games and passed
college and pro teammate Edgerrin James for No. 2 on the Colts
career list for yards from scrimmage. … Packers receiver Donald
Driver played in his 197th career game Sunday, breaking a tie with
Bart Starr for second in team history.
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