Indianapolis Colts at Green Bay Packers: Next Day Analysis

Nov 6, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) walks off the field with linebacker Erik Walden (93) after the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. The Colts beat the Packers 31-26. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 6, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) walks off the field with linebacker Erik Walden (93) after the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. The Colts beat the Packers 31-26. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

The Indianapolis Colts managed to gut out a much needed win against the heavily favored Green Bay Packers Sunday. Is the win a sign of things to come or just fools gold for the 2016 Colts?

Now that was fun, wasn’t it? An aggressive Colts team, taking on a talented opponent and NOT shooting themselves in the foot? Much like last year’s win against Denver, the 2016 victory at Green Bay could be a turning point for the season (assuming Andrew Luck‘s vital organs are intact).

This was an exciting game to watch, but equally frustrating at the same time. This shows just how good the Colts could be if they remain aggressive and disciplined.

The Colts are still fundamentally flawed but yesterday showed that they don’t always need Luck to be brilliant to win. He was great when they needed it most, like shrugging off Ha Ha Clinton-Dix‘s sack to salt the game away for the Colts, but could have put the team in a deep hole with those early interceptions.

Credit to the defense for remaining stout when backed up on their side of the field. At one point the Packers had been in Colts territory six times and had just 10 points to show for it.

But the defense is still an issue, especially late in the game. With zero pass rush and older defenders, they aren’t built to maintain a lead. Say what you want about the 2000s era Colts D, but they were young, conditioned (read: fast), and could rush the hell out of the passer. This version doesn’t have any of those attributes.

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Aaron Rodgers carved up the defense for two touchdowns in just under four minutes late in the fourth to make the game closer than it really was. The defense looked gassed (especially after being on the field for most of the third quarter) and couldn’t land a hit on the elusive Rodgers.

In possibly the best coaching decision of his career, Chuck Pagano put the ball in Luck’s hands when the game needed to be iced. Granted the first one came on a third-and-10 (the Clinton-Dix play) when the Colts had to pass, but a third-and-two with a stacked box saw the Colts pass to win. They remained just aggressive enough to sneak away with a win.

Pagano seems to be letting his faith in his defense slip and that is a very good thing. We’ve seen that this unit can get stops, especially early in games, but they have been awful when it counts the most. Pagano’s faith in his defense has cost the Colts wins against Detroit and Texans, and nearly would have in Tennessee if Marcus Mariota could hold onto the ball.

Pagano wants to trust his defense, fine, just don’t make that mistake in the fourth quarter. They aren’t built to win with a big lead (which is the weirdest sentence I have ever written about a football team).

Here are a few things that stood out from Sunday.

  • Where did Jordan Todman come from? The Colts were going to need weird things to break their way, and boy did that happen. Todman gave them two monster returns on Sunday that led to 10 points for the Colts. Additional weirdness came from Josh Ferguson being productive with a monster block on each of those returns and a catch and run for a first down. Honestly wasn’t sure that either was still on the team heading into Sunday.
  • Importance of 10. The loss of Donte Moncrief for the better part of six weeks cannot be understated. He allows the Colts to be so much more dynamic on offense and is a dangerous red zone target. It wasn’t surprising that they struggled at times to move the ball without a possession receiver (much like 2013 following the loss of Reggie Wayne). Moncrief returning to form (and Hilton getting back to 100-percent) will take this offense to another level. The Colts Bye Week comes at a crucial time (which proves their decision not to take it after London correct) and this offense will likely be back at full strength in time for the final stretch of the season.
  • Credit to Mike McCarthy. There is a movement among Packers fans to get McCarthy fired, and Sunday is a prime example. The Packers should have carved apart the Colts defense but didn’t appear to attack them at their weaknesses until it was too late (those final two drives are perfect examples). The Colts D isn’t tough to beat: get them is space, attack the edges, and exploit the soft underneath. The Packers spent most of the day doing none of those things and when something did work (say, Ty Montgomery running the ball) they’d go away from it after a successful play or two. Their offense seemed haphazard and unfocused, which is something Colts fans are familiar with. Make no mistake, the Colts played well and won this game, but the Packers game plan really helped.
  • Punt returner. The Colts have their kickoff specialist, but boy do they need help at punt returns. Chester Rogers has had too many mistakes it his two games with the job and last week was a comedy of errors against the Chiefs with Rogers out. The loss of Quan Bray looms large and it is very possible he’ll be out for the rest of the year (he’s eligible to return in Week 15) but there hasn’t been any update on his status. The Colts have had the best special teams in the NFL this season, but punt returner could become a very costly problem in short order.

The Colts now get to head into the Bye Week without any controversy and just a game back from .500. They can rest up and dial in on the Titans who come to town on the 20th. Hopefully they don’t look past that matchup to the Steelers who will be in Indy on Thanksgiving for Thursday Night Football.