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Highlights from week 11: Colts vs. Packers

Green Bay Packers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Overview

In what will go down as an instant classic for Colts fans will live in infamy for Packers fans. The Colts defense started as it often has this season; poorly. After halftime the unit did what it has also often done; adjusted to their opponent and took away what they do well.

The Colts offense continued to come together, led by Philip Rivers. The offense seems that it is starting to find itself and Frank Reich’s play calling is reflecting that assertion.

Ultimately we’re still a few weeks away from knowing for sure if this 2020 Colts team is a real contender but with back to back wins against two 7-3 teams, it sure seems like if the Colts stay healthy they could be very dangerous in the postseason.


First Quarter

Big players make big plays

Aaron Rodgers started this game the way many feared he might; with a big gainer to DaVante Adams. Adams would go on to catch six more passes (seven total) for 106 yards and a touchdown, so in a very real way those fears were realized.

Turnovers were a bigger theme than I expected

Playing against the Packers you don’t expect to force many turnovers and even though this one wasn’t forced, Aaron Rodgers fumbling a snap might have been the least likely scenario for a Packers turnover.

Bummer

Right after this happened I saw a lot of fans kill Mo Alie-Cox for fumbling the ball. Colts fans, please stop doing this.

It sucks that Mo fumbled. It sucks that the Packers recovered the ball. Yes you want to see better ball security. Yes the Colts missed out on a chance to score off of a turnover from Aaron Rodgers.

That’s all true, but here’s the thing, sometimes defenders make great plays too and that’s exactly what happened here. It’s not like Mo lost this ball on a standard run of the mill tackle from a defensive back, this ball was punched out, intentionally by a defender who just made a great play.

Yes it sucks to see happen to one of our guys but let’s not kill Mo Alie-Cox in the comments until he drops a wide open pass in the endzone. Then, sure go for it.

Too easy

I’ll be interested to see the all-22 on this play but the Colts blitz safety Khari Willis while staying in a 2 safety deep zone. Kenny Moore II drops from his position as the slot cornerback to the other deep safety position, opposite Julian Blackmon. The Packers ran two deep routes right at Kenny Moore, who doesn’t usually play a deep safety role. Aaron Rodgers waited for Moore to make a decision and threw to the receiving option he didn’t pick.

The Packers ran the perfect play to exploit the Colts coverage and they gave Aaron Rodgers plenty of time to make a perfect throw.

This play is interesting to me as the Colts technically ran a zone blitz on this play, which isn’t something we usually see in Indy.

Colts Rookies came up big this week

Michael Pittman Jr. finally got his first touchdown of his professional career after catching a drag route and taking it 45 yards for the score. At first I was worried about him jumping into the crowd during a pandemic but then I saw this:

As it turns out, he wasn’t jumping into the stands with random, possibly sick people, he was celebrating with his teammates.

Sack!

Justin Houston had gone five games without a sack before bringing Aaron Rodgers down for Indy’s only sack of the day.

You might not see it again

The Colts were either in, or just showed cover two. Aaron Rodgers reads the cover two and goes to an intermediate route that should work against this coverage. Instead, Rock Ya-Sin either bailed out of his zone when he thought Rodgers was going to throw or he sold his fake cover two zone well enough to fool Aaron Rodgers.

Either way Rock Ya-Sin will never see Rodgers make this mistake again. Truly a great play from the second year corner.


Second Quarter

Had he not redeemed himself I was going to be pretty salty about this miss

It’s not that he missed from 50. That’s actually pretty understandable. 50 yards is a long way to kick a football and have it go straight. The thing is shaped in a way to explicitly prevent it from traveling predictably when struck. Kickers have mostly figured it out but it’s not an exact science.

What I have a problem with is the fact that in 2020 we’re seeing a lot of kickers with massive legs line up and kick field goals approaching 60 yards.

I understand he’s a rookie and he had been (mostly) very good up until this point but a modern NFL team, playing indoors, should be in scoring range if they manage to get their ball inside their opponents 40 yard line and Rodrigo Blankenship might not have the leg to get it done.

That miss led to this

Not much to say, the Packers offense finally got in a groove and the Colts defense wasn’t up to the task yet.

All of that set up this

The right side of the offensive line struggled all day. If you had any remaining questions about how good Braden Smith “really” is, yesterday should have told you everything you needed to know.

This goes against Philip Rivers but anyone with an IQ over 60 understands this was a tipped ball.

The world was looking dim

For a few minutes it really felt like the Packers were going to be able to run away with this game.

But then the strangest thing happened

Philip Rivers decided to take it upon himself to move the ball down the field and get six points of his own before halftime.

This is a really great breakdown of the play and play design from Dan Orlovsky

The only problem was, many feared that they had given Aaron Rodgers too much time.

They had, in fact, given Aaron Rodgers too much time

With the help of a 52 yard pass interference call that went against Rock Ya-Sin (who was left 1 on 1 with no safety help while the Packers were trying to move down the field quickly, which seems like a mistake). The Packers next play was this quick hitter to running back Jamaal Williams who got in for another touchdown before the half.

At the halfway point the Packers were ahead 28-14.


Third Quarter

Things started well

Jonathan Taylor had maybe the best game of his career, it would have been his biggest day statistically if not for one of 9 holding calls that wiped out a long touchdown run. Taylor managed to run 22 times for 90 yards and this run demonstrated a lot of things that fans had begun to worry about with the talented back.

The biggest thing to me was the patience he shows, pressing the line. He worked to his right, seeing that the edge had been set, he gave a stutter step which set him up to cut back inside, when there was nothing available between the right center and tackle (which was his second read on this run) he saw the hole on the backside of the line and accelerated through it into the secondary for 18 yards.

Another disappointing drive

The Colts finished this drive with a made field goal but I couldn’t help but wonder if Rodgers would have gotten this call. Obviously I’m not going to make a big deal about it but it did seem that some of the officiating was inconsistent in this one.

Let’s give special teams some love

In all my years of Colts fandom, I can’t remember a special teams unit that put more opponents in terrible field position quite like this 2020 Colts squad. I never said it publicly after the last draft but I thought Chris Ballard was a little high on his horse outwardly drafting players specifically for their ability on special teams. I thought those picks could have been used to take a swing on a player at a higher position of need.

Turns out I’ve given myself yet another reason to not publicly criticize a Chris Ballard draft pick until we’re at least three years in.

I wish we could bottle the Colts second half defense and sell it

In the entire 15:00 minute third quarter Aaron Rodgers was on the field for six plays that took 3:36 off the clock. The Colts offense had possession for the other 11:24. The Colts final possession of the third quarter actually went 3:38 into the fourth quarter, which was longer than the Packers had the ball in the entire third quarter.

Had the Colts had the lead, I would have been over the moon with this level of ball control mastery.

Nothing like fourth down

Jacoby Brissett has become a pretty solid QB sneaker.

First game back

Jack Doyle was quiet in his first game back from a concussion that held him out of last weeks game. Well he was quiet for all but this six yard touchdown grab.

Kicking the extra point would have been silly

Nyheim Hines was the better option on this two point conversion. At this point it felt like the Colts could do no wrong.

Taylor again

Jonathan Taylor should have lost yards on this play. I still don’t really understand how he got out of it but he did. Not only did he make multiple defenders miss in the backfield he then got up field before lowering his shoulder and grinding out a few more yards after contact to pick up 15 on this play. A really great run from the rookie.


Fourth Quarter

More special teams love

The Colts finished off their last drive by kicking another field goal. Naturally it was Aaron Rodgers turn to come out and try to score points of his own. Instead the Colts special teams unit forced another big turnover, this time in scoring position.

The start of something insane

The Colts ended up getting a field goal on this drive but the officials had clearly seen enough of whatever it was the Colts were doing up front.

This should have been the end of the line for the Pack

I think we all celebrated a bit too early here.

Reich was aggressive late in the game with the lead

It was tough to dislike how aggressive Frank Reich was on this drive with less than two minutes on the clock, playing with the lead, on fourth and four the Colts throw a slant to a running back and it picks up the first down. This should have been the end of the game.

But it wasn’t

I didn’t count and I’m not going to go figure it out now but at one point on this drive it felt like there were 8 or 9 flags thrown on 8 or 9 plays ran in a row. Ultimately the Colts ended up having to put it away.

Nice punt

Rigoberto Sanchez can do some ridiculous things with a football and downing them inside the 10 yard line is becoming something I just expect when he walks on to the field.

This play set them up to take the game to overtime

It’s third and ten and even though this is clearly four down territory for the Packers, how many quarterbacks are throwing this ball (hoping for a completion and not to get bailed out by a PI call) in this situation? I don’t thing there are many. Ultimately Aaron Rodgers set the Packers up in field goal range and overtime was set to begin.


Overtime

The second play of overtime

I groaned when the Packers won the coin toss. I just knew that Aaron Rodgers was built for exactly this kind of thing. I knew he was going to drive down the field and end the game for the Packers. I just knew it.

Instead Julian Blackmon came flying up, put his hand on the ball and forced a fumble. DeForrest Buckner made the diving recovery and the Colts were suddenly in possession of the ball, once again in scoring position.

Ballgame

The rookie kicker put in the game winner from 39 yards out.


Final Thoughts For The Week

This game was a lot more fun to watch than what I like. I like a nice Colts blowout, instead they gave me this down to the last second, back and forth nail-biter and I don’t like it.

But seriously this was a great game between two very good NFL teams. The Colts defense plays every second half as if their lives depend on it and the offense seems to finally be coming together. As it turns out, maybe you can’t just plug in a new (very old) starting quarterback into an established system with new players, with no offseason program or preseason and expect him to be great from day one.

Maybe a lot of Colts fans overreacted. Maybe I’m overreacting to the past two wins. Or maybe these Colts are a real contender in the AFC and we’re watching them emerge as such, right now.