Game Review: All Three Phases Contribute In Win

Green Bay got two touchdowns from its special-teams units, three takeaways from the defense, and another stellar performance from quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the No. 1 offense in the Packers’ 59-24 win over the defending AFC champion Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night at Lambeau Field.

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The win improved the Packers to 2-1 on the preseason, and the 59 points scored were the most by a Green Bay team in the preseason since the Packers posted a 75-0 shutout over the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Crush on Sept. 5, 1938, in Ironwood, Mich.

Facing the most potent offense it will see this preseason, Green Bay's defense got off to a slow start as running back Joseph Addai bounced a run out down the sideline for a 49-yard gain on the Colts' very first play from scrimmage. Before the defense could regain its bearings, Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning lined his offense up quickly without a huddle, and found wide receiver Pierre Garcon in the corner of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown.

"We had our gap control at the beginning of that play, and then we got a little overzealous and he bounced back out," said linebacker Nick Barnett of a defense that allowed just 10 yards on eight carries the rest of the half. "All we did was clean it up and execute our responsibilities. We're a good run defense if we do what we are supposed to, and we started to do what we are supposed to after that."

The Packers' offense answered right back, courtesy of a five-play, 70-yard TD drive, with the biggest gain coming on a 48-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Kelvin Hayden as he covered wideout James Jones down the right sideline. After the penalty put the ball at the Indianapolis 6, Rodgers hooked up with wide receiver Donald Driver (five catches for 35 yards) on a nice back-shoulder throw that the veteran wideout hauled in with his right hand.

After Green Bay's offense went three-and-out and saw another drive end when Rodgers was stopped for no gain on a sneak up the middle on fourth-and-1 at the Colts' 22, Manning quickly led the Colts down the field, moving 78 yards on six plays in just over two minutes. The savvy veteran, who finished with 214 yards and two TDs on 15-of-26 passing, found Garcon over the middle for a 24-yard pickup against rookie corner Sam Shields, and then scrambled up in the pocket to complete a short pass to Addai that picked up 33 yards. Two plays later, wide receiver Reggie Wayne got inside cornerback Tramon Williams for a 10-yard score and a 17-7 Colts lead.

The Packers' offense responded with another efficient drive, this time going 76 yards on 10 plays as Rodgers completed passes to five different players. Rodgers found tight end Jermichael Finley over the middle for 15 yards and picked up 11 yards on a well-executed screen to Brandon Jackson, before capping the drive off with a 15-yard TD pass to Finley in the corner of the end zone. Rodgers absorbed a big hit on the throw as Finley got behind linebacker Philip Wheeler for the score to trim the Colts' lead to 17-14.

With just over 3:30 remaining, a Packers drive stalled at the Green Bay 47, but returner Brandon James muffed a hanging punt from Tim Masthay at the Indianapolis 8. The ball caromed into the end zone, where fullback Korey Hall recovered for a touchdown and a 21-17 lead.

The Packers appeared poised to add to their lead just a few plays later after rookie safety Morgan Burnett jumped a pass in the flat to Garcon at the Colts' 29, and returned the pick 11 yards down to the 18. After Rodgers found Driver for 10 yards on first down, Green Bay gave the ball right back when linebacker Clint Session forced a Jackson fumble at the Indianapolis 6, which defensive tackle Fili Moala recovered. It was the second fumble of the night for the backfield, with Ryan Grant's earlier in the second quarter recovered by center Scott Wells.

"I thought the offense was productive, but the contrast of our identity as a football team is taking the football away, which I felt we did a very good job of tonight," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "But we didn't do a very good job of taking care of the ball. We had the ball on the ground too many times, so we need to eliminate that from our play. And it's kind of gone on a little too much, and I'm talking about in the practices and so far in the preseason. We train it every day and we need to get rid of that. So that's the only thing I was really disappointed in offensively."

Manning found Wayne down the left sideline for a 36-yard gain on first down, but then the Colts offense stalled as cornerback Charles Woodson made a nice tackle on a bubble screen to Wayne on third down to force an Indianapolis punt. On the eight possessions for the Indianapolis' first offensive unit, Green Bay's defense allowed 17 points.

The Packers offense took over at its own 22, but Rodgers went to work right away as he spread the ball around once again, completing passes to four different receivers. Finley, who led the offense with six receptions for 85 yards in a half of work, carried the bulk of the load, with the most crucial play being a 25-yard catch over the middle to the Indianapolis 29 that Rodgers placed perfectly between safeties Antoine Bethea and Melvin Bullitt.

With seven seconds left and no timeouts, Rodgers completed another back-shoulder throw for a TD, this time to Jones (four catches for 30 yards) to put the Packers up 28-17 at the break. It was a strong finish to a half that, despite the 28 points, left Rodgers feeling unsatisfied.

"I just didn't like our rhythm tonight," Rodgers said. "A lot of times a penalty like the pass interference we had is good for your team, but it kind of throws off your rhythm a little bit because we only gained 22 yards on the first drive and scored a touchdown.

"After that, we kind of just sputtered a little bit but the defense did a nice job of getting us the ball back and the two-minute drill was big for us confidence-wise, just to kind of put a stamp on the first half."

Rodgers finished the night with 195 yards and three TDs on 21-of-29 passing for a 124.9 passer rating. Through three preseason contests, he has completed 41-of-53 passes (77.4 percent) for 470 yards, six touchdowns, and no interceptions for a 141.2 rating. The No. 1 line has yet to allow a sack of Rodgers, and the first unit has now posted five 70-plus-yard touchdown drives over the last two preseason games in just three quarters of work.

"It starts up front; we haven't been sacked in the preseason," Rodgers said. "You've got to give those guys a lot of credit when I have that kind of time against a tough front four with [Dwight] Freeney and [Robert] Mathis pretty much playing the entire time we were in there. You've got to be real happy about that.

"We look at the 21 we scored on offense, and to be honest with you, I think we left some points out there with the turnover that we had and with going three-and-out, which is uncharacteristic of what we've done this preseason. But I like what we did, I like the progress we've made."

The No. 1 offense called it a night after the half of work, with the Colts leaving their first offensive group in for one more series in the second half. On third down at the Colts' 37 on Indianapolis' opening drive, rookie linebacker Frank Zombo posted a sack/forced fumble of Manning, and first-year linebacker Robert Francois scooped up the ball and returned it down to the Indianapolis 2 to set up a Matt Flynn TD pass to fullback John Kuhn, one of two touchdown passes on the night for Flynn.

No. 3 quarterback Graham Harrell led the offense on a long scoring drive of his own, a 13-play, 90-yarder midway through the fourth quarter, and first-year wide receiver Jason Chery put the finishing touches on the victory with a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Additional game coverage - Aug. 26

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