They say lightning never strikes the same place two times in a row, but the Green Bay Packers nearly witnessed such an occurrence.
Not even one full week removed from the debacle in Seattle, the Packers inconceivably nearly lost a second consecutive game thanks to some dubious officiating by regular official Jeff Triplette and his crew. Thanks to a big goal line stand by a defense that was leaky all game and an offense that finally showed signs of life, the Packers hung on to defeat the New Orleans Saints 28-27 at Lambeau Field.
With the win, the Packers go to 2-2 on the season and after a wacky schedule to start the season, the Packers go on the road for three straight games beginning this Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium against the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts had a bye in Week 4 and enter the game with a record of 1-2. The team also will play its first game without head coach Chuck Pagano who recently was diagnosed with Leukemia and may not coach the rest of the season. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will coach the team in Pagano’s absence.
What can Packers fans expect from this game?
Scouting the Colts
The Colts currently are going through what the Packers did in 2008 and that’s transitioning from a future Hall of Fame quarterback to his replacement. The Packers struck gold with Aaron Rodgers and it stands to reasons the Colts could do the same with Andrew Luck.
Luck was the most NFL ready quarterback drafted last April, though Robert Griffin III with the Redskins has outplayed him so far this season. The Colts pretty much cleaned house after last season’s disastrous campaign with Peyton Manning out the entire year with a neck injury. Gone are Jeff Saturday (who is with the Packers), Pierre Garcon and Joseph Addai and in are Samson Satele, Donald Brown and Donnie Avery.
Veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne is back however and should be serving as Luck’s security blanket as he adjusts to the speed of an NFL game.
So far this season, Luck has thrown for 846 yards with five touchdowns against four interceptions. His completion percentage is 53.3%. Luck throws a very good deep ball but has struggled with accuracy. This figures to improve with time so the Packers should feel lucky getting the Colts early versus playing them in November or December.
With Arians now coaching the team, they will likely now play much more like the Pittsburgh Steelers did when Arians was their offensive coordinator—pound the rock and take targeted strikes downfield while mainly utilizing a short-to-intermediate passing game. This approach should serve the rookie quarterback.
As for the Colts defense, it was a weak link for the team when Manning was there and it still is. Pagano was the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens when he was named head coach and sadly, thanks to his recent illness, has not had much of a chance to put his stamp on the Colts defense.
Still, they have playmakers on defense. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis remain at linebacker and are the best pass rushers on the team. With 21 years of NFL experience between them, the Colts need someone on defense to step up.
Vontae Davis is the cream of their secondary. Acquired in a preseason trade with the Miami Dolphins after a dustup with Miami head coach Joe Philbin, Davis brings some much needed aggressiveness to a secondary that has not done much without the oft-injured but still talented Bob Sanders. Davis has nine interceptions in his career and provides the biggest threat to the Packers receivers.
Keys to a Packers victory
-Get to Andrew Luck
The key to forcing any rookie quarterback into making bad throws is to consistently get pressure on him. The Packers had some success with this with Russell Wilson against the Seahawks and should have a much easier time against the less mobile Luck.
Luck has carried the ball 10 times for 80 yards so the Packers do still need to be aware when he scrambles outside the pocket. The Packers have not been able to force turnovers like they did last year so if they can keep Luck inside the pocket and get a consistent pass rush, Luck should make some rookie mistakes and gift wrap some balls for the Packers.
-Get the defense off the field on third down
Luck may be a rookie but the blitz three, drop eight scheme Dom Capers ran against the Saints stands a very low chance of succeeding against the Colts as well.
If the Packers stopped the Saints on only one or two more third downs, the score would have finished much more in the Packers favor. The Packers won’t be able to get away with that as the season goes on. This means a heavier blitz against Luck. Since the Colts don’t have early the amount of weapons the Saints do, it stands to reason Capers will be more aggressive in this game.
-Pound the rock
Benson is getting ever closer to breaking the 100 yard rushing mark in a game and this week provides another good opportunity. The Colts rank 21st in the league in rushing defense and thanks to a weak Colts defensive line, Benson will get his fair share of chances to get into the Colts secondary.
Rodgers will get good looks against the Colts secondary as well, but if the Packers can continue to develop a balanced offense instead of an all-out aerial attack like last season, the Packers will be much better off in the long run. One-dimensional teams do not very often win championships.
Packers 34, Colts 20
The defense will have a much better game though Luck will make a decent amount of plays. The Colts are a young team that needs time to gel, so the Packers should be thankful they play them in October vs. December. Luck has all the makings of a great NFL quarterback; it will just take him some time to put it all together.
The Packers continue to ride a balanced attack and the defense makes enough turnovers that the game is never really as close as the final score may look. It’s a good boost heading into the Packers’ next game when they face a much tougher challenge against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke