By Eric Goska
|Prior to Sunday, the Colts of 1997 had been|
the only team to have defeated the Packers
in a game in which Green Bay had scored
28 or more first-half points.
A number of developments pointed toward the Packers winning in Indianapolis Sunday.
Then, the second half of their game with the Colts commenced.
Any inroads Green Bay made against the Colts’ top-flight defense in the opening two quarters went for naught as the team squandered a 14-point lead. Up 28-14, the Green and Gold managed a single field goal after the break in falling 34-31 to the Colts in overtime.
The loss was a first for Matt LaFleur as head coach. His Packers had been 15-0 when possessing a lead at halftime, even when that advantage was as slim as three points.
With the way Green Bay played in the second half, one wonders just how great a deficit Indianapolis could have overcome had the need arisen.
The last coach in Titletown to be up by 14 or more at intermission and lose was Mike McCarthy. In 2012, his Packers led the Colts 21-3 before imploding 30-27 in the very same venue: Lucas Oil Stadium.
As with that game eight years ago, Green Bay put up decent numbers in the first half. Aaron Rodgers and the offense staked out 206 yards and 15 first downs. The team converted three of four third downs.
Rodgers turned the ball over twice – on a fumble and an interception – but neither mistake led to points. Colts tight end Mo Alie-Cox fumbled the ball back to Green Bay after the first, and rookie Rodrigo Blankenship came up short on a 50-yard field goal attempt after the second.
In spite of those blunders, Rodgers tossed three first-half touchdown passes. Tight end Robert Tonyan, receiver Davante Adams and running back Jamaal Williams scored on those throws.
In the past, a three-TD display had been a good omen for the Green and Gold. Nine passers – Cecil Isbell (1), Roy McKay (1), Bart Starr (3), Don Horn (1), David Whitehurst (1), Lynn Dickey (5), Randy Wright (1), Brett Favre (16) and Rodgers (19) – have combined to throw three or more in a first half 48 times.
Rodgers is the only one to have lost. He’s 17-2, with the other setback having been a 33-32 disappointment at the hands of the Falcons in 2016.
While Rodgers struck through the air, Aaron Jones counted on the ground. Green Bay’s leading rusher (10 carries for 41 yards) cashed in on a 2-yard burst in the second quarter.
Nearly six years had passed since the Colts last surrendered 28 first-half points. In that case, the Cowboys torched them 42-7 four days before Christmas 2014.
Recording four or more touchdowns in a first half remains a big deal, at least for the Packers. The club is closing in on 1,400 regular-season games played, and in only 53 of them did they come away with four first-half TDs.
With Curly Lambeau (9-0), Gene Ronzani (1-0), Vince Lombardi (9-0), Phil Bengtson (1-0), Bart Starr (4-0), Forrest Gregg (3-0), Mike Sherman (4-0) or McCarthy (12-0) at the helm, the team always prevailed. Only Mike Holmgren (8-1) had felt the sting of defeat, that in a 41-38 loss to the Colts in 1997.
LaFleur is the only of the bunch to post an L the first time his group produced such a pile of first-half points.
Knowing the historical record, this loss to the Colts might have come as somewhat of a surprise. Knowing how poorly the Packers played in the second half, the setback was all but inevitable.
We won’t rehash that nightmare here. Suffice it to say, when this author turns to his daughter in the fourth quarter and says, “Watch this guy fumble away the kickoff,” and the Packers’ Darrius Shepherd obliges, the writing is on the wall.
One can’t help but envision the Chicago Bears champing at the bit to get to Lambeau Field. They’ve never come back (0-21) after being down 14 or more to the Packers at halftime.
Not to worry, though. It’s unlikely they’ll fall behind by that much Sunday night.
But if they do, Green Bay might again buck long-established trends and turn the race for the NFC North Division into a free-for-all.
Rock Ya-Sin intercepted Rodgers with three seconds remaining in the first quarter. The Indianapolis cornerback became the first to waylay a Rodgers’ throw in the first quarter of a regular-season game since Seattle’s Nazair Jones did so in the 2017 season opener. Ya-Sin put an end to Rodgers’ franchise record run of 367 consecutive first-quarter attempts without an interception.