'Good on good': Colts' defense a big test for Packers' offense, and vice versa

Both sides look to rise to the challenge

201118-colts-defense-story-2560
QB Aaron Rodgers (left) and Colts LB Darius Leonard (right)

GREEN BAY – It's not quite the irresistible force against the immovable object, but it might be as close as an NFL regular-season game is going to get.

The Packers' offense vs. the Colts' defense is the marquee matchup Sunday in Indianapolis, and the game was flexed to the 3:25 p.m. CT national TV window for good reason.

The Packers (7-2) rank sixth in the league in yards gained and third in points scored. The Colts (6-3) rank first in the league in yards allowed and fourth in points.

"So this is what it's all about, right?" Colts coach Frank Reich said. "It's good on good."

The Colts have put together one of the league's best defenses by arranging high-caliber players at all three levels.

Up front, they have DeForest Buckner on the interior and pass rusher Justin Houston on the edge. At linebacker, Darius Leonard is one of the absolute best in the league and the guy who "makes them go," according to Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. Veteran Xavier Rhodes is at corner and a familiar foe to the Packers from all his years in Minnesota.

"You can tell everybody's on the same page and they fly around," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "It's one of the faster units we'll have played this year. They're physical, they know how to attack the ball, and it's hard to get big plays on them."

The best defense the Packers have faced so far in 2020 was Tampa Bay's, and after a 10-point first quarter, Green Bay got little done.

This game isn't about making up for that one, but receiver Davante Adams noted the Packers' focus is definitely inward on sharpness and execution. They know what they're up against, with the Colts coming off an impressive second-half shutout of 2019 AFC runner-up Tennessee to post a big division win last Thursday night. Statistically, Indy is one of the best tackling teams in the league as well.

But the offense's mentality is it'll come down to more what the Packers do – staying patient, limiting penalties and negative plays, converting in key situations – than what the Colts do.

"They don't make a lot of mistakes," Rodgers said. "They kind of make you go the distance, make you earn it."

Two weeks ago, the Packers got running back Aaron Jones back from injury. Last week, All-Pro David Bakhtiari returned from a three-game absence. This week, they're hoping to get receiver Allen Lazard back from a six-game layoff now that he's been activated from injured reserve, though he was still limited in Wednesday's practice.

The Packers came out of the gate with a dominant offensive performance in Week 1 at Minnesota and feel that's a reasonable standard to shoot for if everyone's finally healthy again. The combination of run-pass balance and explosive gains looked unstoppable, and receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling has made plays the past couple of games like he did in Week 1 as well.

The Green Bay Packers practiced on Clarke Hinkle Field on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020.

Aside from the injury factor hampering peak performance, in Green Bay's two home games over the past three weeks, the miserable weather has made it difficult to get things clicking.

While Rodgers said he doesn't mind the local winter elements as long as it's not too windy or wet, climate-controlled Lucas Oil Stadium is a change of pace he's looking forward to, the challenge of the Colts' defense notwithstanding.

"I am, I really am," Rodgers said. "It will be nice to have some fans there. I'm sure there will be a lot of Packer fans in the stands, which is exciting."

The Colts have hosted roughly 12,000 fans at Lucas Oil for their past two home games, and the percentage of visiting fans Sunday has generated curiosity.

With the leaders of the NFC North facing the co-leaders of the AFC South, will the Packers learn something about where they stand?

On the outside, that might be the story. On the inside, it's about meeting the moment.

"I don't know about measuring stick," Rodgers said. "I think every week in the NFL, it's about winning and it's about execution."

The Packers believe they have another level, and/or can get back to one they've shown previously. If they find it this week, the timing would be just right.

"We've definitely got some better ball in front of us," Adams said. "We've played decent. We've played good enough to win a decent amount of games, but we've got a lot left in the tank."

2021-pro-bowl-vote-gold-2560

2021 Pro Bowl Vote

It's time to cast your votes for the 2021 Pro Bowl!

Advertising