Game Review: Plan Works To Perfection Against Colts

It’s incredibly satisfying when a game plan comes together, and the Packers couldn’t have scripted a better way to beat high-octane Indianapolis on Sunday. The 34-14 victory was Green Bay’s most impressive showing thus far in 2008, and the Packers improved to 4-3 to remain tied for first in the NFC North with Chicago. - More Packers-Colts Game Center


TE Donald Lee does a Lambeau Leap following his 12-yard TD reception in the first half on Sunday.

It's incredibly satisfying when a game plan comes together, and the Packers couldn't have scripted a better way to beat the high-octane Indianapolis Colts on Sunday in front of 71,010 at Lambeau Field.

It started with a ball-control offense that used running back Ryan Grant as a workhorse on the ground and quarterback Aaron Rodgers as an efficient passer and field general to dominate time of possession early. And it finished with a defense that stayed fresh throughout and ultimately turned two interceptions by a physical, ball-hawking secondary into scores.

The result was a 34-14 victory in Green Bay's most impressive showing thus far in 2008. With their second straight win following a three-game losing streak, the Packers improved to 4-3 and remained tied for first in the NFC North with the Chicago Bears heading into a much-needed bye week.

"That's the way it was supposed to look," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "We've played physical football for four quarters two weeks in a row."

The Packers talked all week about how their best defense against the Colts' offense and Peyton Manning was to limit his chances, and they did that to perfection in the first half.

Grinding out drives of 13, 8, 11 and 10 plays, the Packers scored on three of four possessions in the first half and held the ball nearly 11 minutes longer (20:25 to 9:35). That left the Colts with only three possessions, and after directing a touchdown drive the first time he had the ball, Manning managed just two first downs the rest of the half and saw his offense outgained 230-88 at intermission.

In getting a Mason Crosby field goal, a 12-yard TD reception from Donald Lee and an 11-yard TD run from Grant for a 17-7 halftime lead, the Packers racked up 19 first downs and looked nearly unstoppable.

Grant gained 71 of his season-high 105 rushing yards while Rodgers was nothing short of superb. Spreading the ball around to seven different receivers, he completed 16-of-19 passes in the first half, including 13 in a row before breaking the streak with a clock-stopping spike on the half's final drive, which ended with a missed field goal.

"You have to kind of rein yourself in when you're playing that defense," said Rodgers, who finished the game 21-of-28 for 186 yards and the one TD for a 104.2 rating. "It's really a bend-but-don't-break defense.

"In a game like that, I just told myself to be patient. Just don't go away from the checkdowns, throw for a high percentage, and we're going to be able to move the chains and keep that offense off the field."

The residual benefit of that ball-control was the Packers' defense stayed energized from start to finish. And not only did the defense shut out the Colts from the four-minute mark of the first quarter until less than two minutes remained in the game, but it also scored twice on long interception returns by safeties Nick Collins and Aaron Rouse.

Collins' play was the game-changer, coming on the opening possession of the third quarter. With the Colts driving across midfield looking to cut into the 10-point deficit, Manning's third-down pass bounced off the hands of Reggie Wayne and into the air. Collins ran under the deflection, took off down the right sideline and then made two nifty cuts to dodge potential tacklers, going 62 yards in all to the end zone to make it 24-7.

"He had three white shirts inside and he split them and scored," McCarthy said. "That was very impressive."

Equally impressive was Rouse's play. With the Colts trailing 27-7 and inside the Green Bay 10 with just under 5 minutes left in the game, Manning tried to hit Anthony Gonzalez off to his left at the goal line. But Rouse read the play, jumped in front of the receiver and never broke stride, going 99 yards for the game's final points and putting an exclamation point on one of the more forgettable days of Manning's career.

Playing against a nickel defense (with Will Blackmon the fifth defensive back and Brandon Chillar the second linebacker to cover tight end Dallas Clark) virtually the entire game, the future Hall of Famer finished just 21-of-42 for 229 yards with no touchdowns and the two interceptions for a 46.6 rating. It's only the fourth time since his rookie season of 1998 that Manning has posted a QB rating below 50 during the regular season, and the Colts' cause also wasn't helped by their 12 penalties for 110 yards.

{sportsad300}Manning's rating was actually lower than that posted last week by Seattle's No. 3 quarterback, Charlie Frye (53.4), when the Packers held the Seahawks to just 177 total yards but knew full well their next opponent was in a different league.

"Last week people might say that was a third-string quarterback, but like I said that wasn't a third-string quarterback out there today," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "That was a quality opponent and to beat them the way that we did was a great win for us."

A great win that shows how formidable a team can be when it performs exactly the way it expects to.

The Packers needed to control the ball on offense, react well to Manning's no-huddle on defense, and keep the score tilted in their favor. They did all that, and then some, an uplifting way to enter a week of rest with AFC contenders Tennessee and Jacksonville and NFC North rivals Chicago and Minnesota all waiting in the season's second half.

"We had a good plan, we executed it, and we continued to believe in ourselves," Kampman said. "I think we're a good football team. We haven't shown it at times this year, but when we play smart, play tough, play Packer football with energy and emotion, I think we're very tough to beat, and there's no one really that we don't feel we can play with and feel like we can do well against."

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