Butler's Breakdown: Packers vs. Colts


This Sunday's game with the Packers going to Indianapolis should be a great one. It's going to be a lot like the old movie, "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" - just two gun-slingers with Brett Favre going up against Peyton Manning. It's going to be one of the classic quarterback match-ups.

The difference in the two offenses is that Indianapolis' offense relies on Manning to be the focal point. With Edgerrin James possibly not being in there this week, they may throw the ball a lot more than normal. Brett Favre can rely upon Ahman Green and the offensive line to help him do the things he would like to do.

The Indianapolis offense is a real unique offense in the things they want to do. It is all set up by play-action. Regardless of who the back is, they will still run a play-action offense.

On the outside, Marvin Harrison has got to be one of the best receivers of the modern-day era. I know you fans remember back to when the Colts were 0-10, the last time the Packers went out to Indianapolis, and they beat us. That was kind of Harrison's break-out game. The Packers are practicing hard this week for there not to be a repeat performance of 1997.

The problem that could be posed is Reggie Wayne, the receiver on the other side of the field, has been catching a lot of balls and coming into his own. They have two very capable wide receivers. If you double Harrison, you're going to have a lot of one-on-one match-ups with Wayne, and he's been winning a lot of those this year.

The Colts offensive line is very athletic. They block real well and disguise very well on their run-pass mix. It's hard to gather when they're running the ball and when they're throwing the ball. As we saw last week, without Grady Jackson in the middle, and now without James Lee as well, whoever is in the middle of the line for the Packers is going to have to be ready to play.

The key for the Packers defense is that the secondary has to be very disciplined this week. They can't get caught looking in the backfield when it's time for them to be covering a guy. If they look in the backfield, that play-action could catch them with some big plays. Manning is one of the best, if not the best in the league at running play-action.

If they can limit the Indianapolis offense to no big plays, the Packers will have a very good chance of winning this game. Their offense is predicated on catching one of the defensive backs not being disciplined, and then attacking that area down the field for a big play.

The Colts are one of the top red zone offenses around. They have two very capable tight ends in Dallas Clark and Marcus Pollard. They use their tight ends a lot, and from many different formations. You might see Harrison and Wayne together on one side, and Clark and Pollard lined up together on the other side of the formation, trying to get a match-up with a linebacker. In the red zone, Manning likes to throw the ball to #81 Pollard.

Traditionally, when teams play a cover-two defense against the Colts, they like to send both tight ends up the field on what we call "seam" routes. The Packers will have to control that, which means Nick Barnett will have his hands full. This is one of the reasons why he was drafted to be in the middle of the defense, since he has the speed to run with tight ends down the middle of the field.

The Colts' run-pass ratio is very even, but they do really like to take shots down the field, especially when they are playing at home on their fast surface.

The Packers defense must match up well with their wide receivers. Reggie Wayne is the bigger receiver of the bunch, so Mike McKenzie and Michael Hawthorne will most likely be with him. I think Al Harris matches up very well with Harrison - both are small and quick.

A big key against their running game will be the ability of Hannibal Navies to compress the tight end up the field. The Colts run a lot of "stretch" plays, where Manning doesn't hand the ball off the running back until he's already near the outside of the offensive line.

If there's room to run outside, whoever the running back is, whether it's James or Dominic Rhodes, will have a big day. Navies must be there on the outside to force the back to cut back towards the rest of the defense.

Sunday will be a chance for the defensive line to redeem themselves after a sub-par showing last week against Chicago. If they stay in their gaps, they should do a good job of stopping the run.

The front four also have to be able to get pressure on Peyton Manning, without relying on the blitz all the time. Manning is very good at getting defenses to show if they are blitzing before the play, and if he sees a blitz coming, he will audible to a play to counter the attack.

The key to blitzing against Manning is to be patient. You can't show your hand too early, and be ready to go when the ball is snapped, and hit it on the run.

Brett Favre and the Packers offense has to prove that if this game turns into a shootout, they can come out on top. With the three receivers that Favre has, I think they are capable of doing just that.

Javon Walker, who has continued to show that no one can cover him down the field, caught another long pass last week. If Ahman Green can come out running and pile up yardage early, that will definitely set up the play-action game and open up some downfield passes.

The focus on the game will obviously be on the two quarterbacks and how they manage the game.

Another key battle to watch will be the match-up of two of the top kickers in the league in Ryan Longwell and Mike Vanderjagt. Vanderjagt's 87.9% success rate on field goals is the best in NFL history.

The Colts special teams are very good. They're very fast, they tackle well, and they are very well-coached.

On the road, you need to turn in some big plays on special teams, and maybe even put some points on the board. Whether it be a blocked punt, a field goal block, or a punt or kickoff return for a score, that would go a long way to determining the outcome of the game.

The Packers can not afford to turn the ball over this week, and one thing you can never afford on the road is penalties. If they have 10-15 penalties called on them, they're going to be in trouble. If they can hold it down to less than five flags, they should be in good shape.

You have to take the crowd out of the game and not allow any big plays. If they can frustrate the Indianapolis offense, the Packers should prevail. Once they get frustrated, like was shown in last year's AFC Championship game at New England, you can get in their heads and beat them.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is again providing exclusive analysis to Packers.com beginning with training camp and later with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays, followed by a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays during the preseason and regular season.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website, leroybutler36.com.*

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