Packers lament difficult loss, but they're far from discouraged

QB Aaron Rodgers, Head Coach Matt LaFleur see positive signs heading into stretch run

QB Aaron Rodgers

The ending was immensely disappointing.

The vast majority of the second half was, really, and the Packers know they let a very winnable game against a playoff-caliber opponent get away in rather unsightly fashion.

But in the immediate aftermath of the 34-31 overtime defeat to the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium, two individuals whose voices matter most – QB Aaron Rodgers and Head Coach Matt LaFleur – made it clear the Packers left Indianapolis a better team, even after a loss that feels terrible.

"Today actually gave me a lot of confidence in our guys," Rodgers said. "That might sound weird when we lost and we turned the ball over four times, but there was a different type of energy this week at practice. I thought it carried over to today.

"I felt like this was the first week all season where we practiced like a great team and not just a good team, so that was encouraging."

The Packers certainly looked like a great team in the first half, scoring four touchdowns on offense and getting two key turnovers on defense despite a couple of breakdowns against a savvy veteran quarterback.

Yes, Green Bay has to close out a game like this. It's haunting not to when it's 28-14 at the half and the offense is clicking. Whether the next snowball that starts rolling the wrong way can get stopped sooner, time will tell.

But after two rather listless performances at home and a lopsided loss a month ago at Tampa Bay to another playoff contender, the Packers looked like a different team in Indy, as Rodgers said.

They were prepared from the get-go and had a more determined approach. That had to be the case, or they never would have gotten off the deck late in the game, after taking everything the Colts could throw at them, and still give themselves a chance.

"The guys, you could tell just right from the first day on Monday that they were locked in ready to go," LaFleur said.

"There was great energy throughout all our practices and it translated today. That's why it hurts so bad when you get exactly what you're trying to get done and you don't get the results you want. But we're going to need more of that moving forward."

That's because if the Colts game was a big one, the next game is bigger.

At 7-3, the Packers hold a two-game lead on the 5-5 Bears in the NFC North. The Vikings and Lions both lost Sunday to stay three games back at 4-6.

With the Bears coming to Lambeau Field next Sunday night, it's pretty simple: The Packers can put a stranglehold on the division with a win to take a three-game lead with five games left. Or the Bears will get within a game and declare it's probably going down to the wire.

"It's a big division game, a big rivalry game, and we're going to need that same type of effort," LaFleur said. "We're just going to need better execution."

It'll start with stopping the flood of turnovers. The Packers have turned it over only nine times all season, but six times in the last two games. Last week, the giveaways ultimately didn't cost them against the lowly Jaguars. This week, the Colts did what good teams do when they win the turnover battle.

Lucas Oil Stadium hosted a Week 11 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020.

So the offense has to get back to its protect-the-football ways, the defense has to find some measure of consistency, and the special teams have to start helping more – certainly not hurting as they've done the last two games as well with the long punt return last week and fumble this week.

"What's been missing is that all three phases kind of firing on every cylinder," Rodgers said.

"I just think we need to be an all-three-phases football team to go as far as we want to go."

The Colts game didn't fix everything. There's plenty of work to do. But can any momentum actually be built from a loss heading into the stretch run? The Packers might find out.

For all the frustrating moments that transpired, there was definitely more to like from this game than last week's uninspiring victory over the Jaguars. The Colts are the best team the Packers will play until Christmas.

Still, the Packers should have beaten them, and they know it. Letting that game get away won't sit well, but strange as it sounds, the Packers got better the past several days.

Rodgers and LaFleur wouldn't lie about that.

"I still feel really good about our chances and our squad," Rodgers said. "This will be an important week, obviously."

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