Packers vs. Colts: Observations from Green Bay’s 24-21 win over Indianapolis
Speeding things up
The offense again got off to a slow start before resorting to the no-huddle. It seems they lack the rhythm and tempo when they slow it down and stay traditional. Once Mike McCarthy sped things up, the offense began to flow the way everyone expects. On their first hurry-up series, Aaron Rodgers hit Jermichael Finley to cap off a 10 play, 81-yard drive.
I can’t imagine the Packers not using the no-huddle in regular season games, especially if they come out of the gates slow like they historically have. It’s been a good switch up so far.
I love the way McCarthy went about the final two minutes. He allowed Graham Harrell to run the two-minute drill, which he didn’t have to do. He just as easily could have played that series like normal and let the clock run out. Instead, Harrell put the ball in the end zone on a fourth down throw that reminded me of Rodgers’ strike to Jordy Nelson in the closing seconds of the Packers first game against the Falcons last season. Down two points, McCarthy also could have kicked the PAT and went home. He instead gave his players a chance to win the game. The Packers converted the two points and tied the game.
Following the tying score, McCarthy could have then settled for overtime and kicked off normally. The onside call was genius, however, and it was performed perfectly. M.D. Jennings had the easiest catch of an onside kick I’ve seen. Harrell then marched the team into field goal range and Mason Crosby nailed the game-winner.
I bet his players will love him for it. Maybe not the starters, who likely just wanted to just get out of Indianapolis. But for some of those third-stringers, that could be realistically be the fondest memory they’ll have of their NFL career. I just loved everything about what McCarthy did at the end of the game.
Harrell redeems himself
You have to credit Harrell, who looked pretty bad at times in the second half, for his performance to end the game. He could have just as easily packed it in after a few inaccurate throws and an interception. He got it done when it mattered, and that means something. I still wouldn’t have confidence in him as the No. 2 at this point, but the Packers have a guy they can work with in Harrell.
Stuck in neutral
The running game didn’t show us much of anything. Ryan Grant led the Packers with 16 yards on six carries. Overall, the team rushed for just 45 yards on 19 carries. That’s simply not getting it done from the backs or the offensive line. In a game where the coaches needed to see what they had in their stable of backs, this was a disappointing effort.
Offensive line worries
The concerns on the offensive line continued tonight for the Packers. In the first half, Rodgers was sacked four times—an unacceptable number. Chad Clifton was being abused for most of the night by Dwight Freeney and Josh Sitton was beaten badly on one sack by Tommie Harris. By the third preseason game, this unit is a legitimate worry. I’ve said this a million times, but it’s worth nothing again: The only way this offense doesn’t blow teams away this season is if the offensive line crumbles like it has at times this preseason. They need to figure it out before the Saints revamped defensive line comes to Lambeau Field for Week 1. The clock is ticking.
After making Curtis Painter look like a JV quarterback for most of the first quarter, the Packers defense allowed him to catch fire before half time. Painter led the Colts on back-to-back 69-yard touchdown drives in the second quarter. On the first, Reggie Wayne was the beneficiary of a blown coverage by safety Morgan Burnett, who bit up on an underneath route when the Packers were in a Cover-2 look. Wayne was then all alone for an easy pitch and catch touchdown.
Right before half time, Painter wisely picked on Jarrett Bush in the corner of the end zone for his second score. Most of the time, Bush looks lost in man coverage. He’s a great special teams player, but Bush can’t be counted on to cover a guy man-to-man. It’s just that simple.
So’oto states his case
Maybe the Packers most impressive player Friday night was linebacker Vic So’oto. The Colts couldn’t keep him out of their backfield. He had a strip sack to start the second half, which was eerily reminiscent of Frank Zombo’s sack against the Colts last season that helped him lock up a roster spot. So’oto isn’t the most fluid athlete, but he holds up well at the point of attack and can create negative plays for an defense. I would hesitate to say he has a roster spot “locked up,” as some have stated, but So’oto is making it increasingly harder for the Packers to keep him off their 53-man roster.
Out of the backfield
No running back separated himself tonight carrying the football, but James Starks looked very sure-handed in the passing game. Once he got the ball in his hands, he ran downhill and with authority. The question I ask is; How can the Packers not give him the majority of the carries? Grant looks in great shape physically, but he’s running hesitant and might have lost some burst. Those used to be huge assets for Grant. Starks just looks better at this point and I don’t think it’s close. I understand the loyalty to Grant as the starter, but it might be time to end that charade. Starks is the better back right now.
Crosby’s second chance
Early on, Packers kicker Mason Crosby missed a field goal from 41 yards, which is a distance that has given him trouble in the past for whatever reason. It’s still obviously not a kick that anyone would expect a veteran kicker to miss, especially after the contract he received before this season.
Crosby got a second chance in the waning moments, however, and he absolutely nailed the game-winner. It wasn’t dead center, but that kick was good from probably 65 yards. It was good to see him make a clutch kick, even if it was in the preseason. Right Al?
Other quick thoughts:
Clay Matthews sack in the first quarter was vintage 52. He used a straight speed rush to gain leverage then went to his trademarked dip to get to the quarterback. He’ll get 10 sacks this season in his sleep with that combination…Rodgers’ touchdown pass to Jermichael Finley was grand larceny. The Colts gave Rodgers a 2-deep look and matched linebacker Pat Angerer on Finely one-on-one. Rodgers saw it right away and delivered a perfect ball. Angerer didn’t have a chance. How do you call that defense in the red zone against the Packers?…The second unit on the offensive line did a better job tonight. They generally protected both Harrell and Matt Flynn well…CB Davon House still has a long ways to go, but it’s obvious he has some natural talent. He just needs more live-action work…TE D.J. Williams dropped a pass on third down that would have moved the chains. He’s essentially disappeared since the first week or so of camp. Could he be on the roster bubble?…TE Ryan Taylor can catch the football. I love the way he plucked the ball tonight. He could have a bright future…Liked the way Jordy Nelson played tonight. He led the Packers in receiving after turning a short route into a long gain, just the kind of YAC play this team thrives on…Didn’t see much of Flynn at quarterback, but he’ll get a ton of reps next week against Kansas City…Wanted to see more from RB Alex Green, but there wasn’t many positives from the running back unit. Looked confident returning kicks.——————
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2