GREEN BAY – One more possession might have allowed the Packers to erase three-plus quarters of sluggish football on Sunday.
They didn't get that last chance, but even if they had, the Packers know they can't keep playing like they did for most of their 31-26 loss to the Colts at Lambeau Field, which dropped Green Bay to 4-4 at the season's midway point.
"That was a difficult, disappointing home loss," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "Indianapolis jumped on us from the first play, and frankly, we never got it back."
The Colts' Jordan Todman ran the opening kickoff back 99 yards for a touchdown, and the visitors never trailed. They opened up an 18-point lead with 9:35 to go before the Packers started to turn things around.
Green Bay drove for two touchdowns and needed a defensive stop in the final 3½ minutes to give the offense one more shot at the win.
"We put ourselves in position, but obviously it was too little, too late," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.
That's because Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (23-of-36, 281 yards, 74.0 passer rating) shook off a sack attempt by a blitzing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to complete a 20-yard pass to tight end Jack Doyle on third-and-10 with 3:07 to go.
Luck then found T.Y. Hilton all alone over the middle for 27 yards on third-and-2 just before the two-minute warning, and the Packers' fate was sealed.
"The key stops is what we needed on defense and we didn't get that," McCarthy said, as his defense faltered down the stretch for the second week in a row.
"We didn't play good enough. I'm disappointed, I'm irritated. We didn't play sharp as a football team."
The lapses were in all three phases. On special teams, Todman also had a 61-yard kickoff return to set up a field goal, so the two long returns resulted in 10 points. The Packers' offense converted two Clinton-Dix interceptions in the first half into just seven points, with the first turnover resulting in a missed field goal.
There were other chances, too. Another potential field goal wasn't tried when Rodgers was intercepted in Indy territory in the third quarter. In the second, back-to-back deep shots to Jordy Nelson and Jeff Janis came up empty. Nelson told Rodgers he lost the first one in the south end zone backdrop, and Janis dropped the second along the sideline.
"We have to make those plays," said Rodgers, who finished 26-of-43 for 297 yards with three touchdowns and one interception for a 94.8 passer rating. "You get a couple of those plays, you're obviously scoring more points.
"We just kind of stopped ourselves. We didn't really respond well early in the game, even after the touchdown to Jordy."
Rodgers' 26-yard TD pass to Nelson (seven catches, 94 yards) on a free play got the Packers within 14-10 at the end of the first quarter, but the defense allowed a 96-yard touchdown drive to end the first half.
Indy's 71-yard TD drive early in the fourth quarter was just as frustrating. Running back Frank Gore (19 carries, 60 yards) capped it with his second rushing touchdown of the game to give the Colts the three-score lead.
Indianapolis only faced three third downs total on those two momentum-shifting drives, and just one of them required more than two yards to convert.
"We didn't carry it over," McCarthy said of what he felt was a strong week of preparation.
The loss was the Packers' second at home this season, not an ideal sendoff for a three-game road trip through the rest of November. With Rodgers at quarterback, the Packers haven't lost twice at home this early in a season since 2009.
"We were not sharp against Dallas and we were not sharp today against the Colts," McCarthy said. "We need to get to the bottom of it. That's life in the NFL.
"Two home losses, the fact of the matter is it doesn't sit well with anybody. We will regroup tomorrow and get on to Tennessee."
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