Packers vs. Colts: Observations from Green Bay’s 24-21 win over Indianapolis All Green Bay Packers All the Time

A few observations from the Packers 24-21 win over the Colts:

Speeding things up

The offense again got off to a slow start before resorting to the no-huddle. It seems they lack the rhythm and tempo when they slow it down and stay traditional. Once Mike McCarthy sped things up, the offense began to flow the way everyone expects. On their first hurry-up series, Aaron Rodgers hit Jermichael Finley to cap off a 10 play, 81-yard drive.

I can’t imagine the Packers not using the no-huddle in regular season games, especially if they come out of the gates slow like they historically have. It’s been a good switch up so far.

McCarthy’s finish

I love the way McCarthy went about the final two minutes. He allowed Graham Harrell to run the two-minute drill, which he didn’t have to do. He just as easily could have played that series like normal and let the clock run out. Instead, Harrell put the ball in the end zone on a fourth down throw that reminded me of Rodgers’ strike to Jordy Nelson in the closing seconds of the Packers first game against the Falcons last season. Down two points, McCarthy also could have kicked the PAT and went home. He instead gave his players a chance to win the game. The Packers converted the two points and tied the game.

Following the tying score, McCarthy could have then settled for overtime and kicked off normally. The onside call was genius, however, and it was performed perfectly. M.D. Jennings had the easiest catch of an onside kick I’ve seen. Harrell then marched the team into field goal range and Mason Crosby nailed the game-winner.

I bet his players will love him for it. Maybe not the starters, who likely just wanted to just get out of Indianapolis. But for some of those third-stringers, that could be realistically be the fondest memory they’ll have of their NFL career. I just loved everything about what McCarthy did at the end of the game.

Harrell redeems himself

You have to credit Harrell, who looked pretty bad at times in the second half, for his performance to end the game. He could have just as easily packed it in after a few inaccurate throws and an interception. He got it done when it mattered, and that means something. I still wouldn’t have confidence in him as the No. 2 at this point, but the Packers have a guy they can work with in Harrell.

Stuck in neutral

The running game didn’t show us much of anything. Ryan Grant led the Packers with 16 yards on six carries. Overall, the team rushed for just 45 yards on 19 carries. That’s simply not getting it done from the backs or the offensive line. In a game where the coaches needed to see what they had in their stable of backs, this was a disappointing effort.

Offensive line worries

The concerns on the offensive line continued tonight for the Packers. In the first half, Rodgers was sacked four times—an unacceptable number. Chad Clifton was being abused for most of the night by Dwight Freeney and Josh Sitton was beaten badly on one sack by Tommie Harris. By the third preseason game, this unit is a legitimate worry. I’ve said this a million times, but it’s worth nothing again: The only way this offense doesn’t blow teams away this season is if the offensive line crumbles like it has at times this preseason. They need to figure it out before the Saints revamped defensive line comes to Lambeau Field for Week 1. The clock is ticking.

Secondary lapses

After making Curtis Painter look like a JV quarterback for most of the first quarter, the Packers defense allowed him to catch fire before half time. Painter led the Colts on back-to-back 69-yard touchdown drives in the second quarter. On the first, Reggie Wayne was the beneficiary of a blown coverage by safety Morgan Burnett, who bit up on an underneath route when the Packers were in a Cover-2 look. Wayne was then all alone for an easy pitch and catch touchdown.

Right before half time, Painter wisely picked on Jarrett Bush in the corner of the end zone for his second score. Most of the time, Bush looks lost in man coverage. He’s a great special teams player, but Bush can’t be counted on to cover a guy man-to-man. It’s just that simple.

So’oto states his case

Maybe the Packers most impressive player Friday night was linebacker Vic So’oto. The Colts couldn’t keep him out of their backfield. He had a strip sack to start the second half, which was eerily reminiscent of Frank Zombo’s sack against the Colts last season that helped him lock up a roster spot. So’oto isn’t the most fluid athlete, but he holds up well at the point of attack and can create negative plays for an defense. I would hesitate to say he has a roster spot “locked up,” as some have stated, but So’oto is making it increasingly harder for the Packers to keep him off their 53-man roster.

Out of the backfield

No running back separated himself tonight carrying the football, but James Starks looked very sure-handed in the passing game. Once he got the ball in his hands, he ran downhill and with authority. The question I ask is; How can the Packers not give him the majority of the carries? Grant looks in great shape physically, but he’s running hesitant and might have lost some burst. Those used to be huge assets for Grant. Starks just looks better at this point and I don’t think it’s close. I understand the loyalty to Grant as the starter, but it might be time to end that charade. Starks is the better back right now.

Crosby’s second chance

Early on, Packers kicker Mason Crosby missed a field goal from 41 yards, which is a distance that has given him trouble in the past for whatever reason. It’s still obviously not a kick that anyone would expect a veteran kicker to miss, especially after the contract he received before this season.

Crosby got a second chance in the waning moments, however, and he absolutely nailed the game-winner. It wasn’t dead center, but that kick was good from probably 65 yards. It was good to see him make a clutch kick, even if it was in the preseason. Right Al?

Other quick thoughts:

Clay Matthews sack in the first quarter was vintage 52. He used a straight speed rush to gain leverage then went to his trademarked dip to get to the quarterback. He’ll get 10 sacks this season in his sleep with that combination…Rodgers’ touchdown pass to Jermichael Finley was grand larceny. The Colts gave Rodgers a 2-deep look and matched linebacker Pat Angerer on Finely one-on-one. Rodgers saw it right away and delivered a perfect ball. Angerer didn’t have a chance. How do you call that defense in the red zone against the Packers?…The second unit on the offensive line did a better job tonight. They generally protected both Harrell and Matt Flynn well…CB Davon House still has a long ways to go, but it’s obvious he has some natural talent. He just needs more live-action work…TE D.J. Williams dropped a pass on third down that would have moved the chains. He’s essentially disappeared since the first week or so of camp. Could he be on the roster bubble?…TE Ryan Taylor can catch the football. I love the way he plucked the ball tonight. He could have a bright future…Liked the way Jordy Nelson played tonight. He led the Packers in receiving after turning a short route into a long gain, just the kind of YAC play this team thrives on…Didn’t see much of Flynn at quarterback, but he’ll get a ton of reps next week against Kansas City…Wanted to see more from RB Alex Green, but there wasn’t many positives from the running back unit. Looked confident returning kicks.


Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

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28 thoughts on “Packers vs. Colts: Observations from Green Bay’s 24-21 win over Indianapolis

  1. Why, why, why? Why does the GB run game start every season so slowly? It just seems like, in the Ryan Grant era, and some time before, we can run at all in the first eight or so games. C’mon Campen, get ’em going! (Or get him out, McCarthy!)

    1. Not sure. There wasn’t much for running lanes tonight, and the Packers first team offense was content throwing the ball most downs. I don’t think Starks saw enough carries early on, to be honest.

  2. Remember, it’s preseason. Hopefully in time the Pack will actually get their stuff together. The run is slow, right now. But when the season starts, that can change.

    1. I’m not too worried about the running game. Offensive line and protecting Rodgers is the biggest concern

      1. No kidding. I just wrote about how this problem needs to go away already. Rodgers deserves better. I see potential in the offensive line, but this is seriously getting old!

  3. im trying not to read into this. cuz if i was i would be worried. o-line and run D is concerning.

    1. The play of both lines is concerning. Injuries have hurt the defensive line, so getting everyone back should help. But offensive line? Not as easy of a fix, I don’t think. People are just getting beat one-on-one.

  4. Yeah not a great O-line display. I for some reason am less worried about Clifton starting slow than had it been say Lang who had the nightmare though.Not so worried about run D -as far as I can tell we were in nickel all night when the starters where in

    So’oto and Taylor I think may have made the 53 last night-Brad Jones was anonymous and can’t see us sneaking Taylor onto the PS.

    Starks was in on every 3rd down even on Grants series so think he gets the bulk of the work without getting the starters tag. Pure speculation but I think they start with Grant but switch to Starks when they go no huddle which I think they will often early to get Rodgers in the groove-you then have Grant fresh for some clock killing in the 2nd half. I thought Grant ran hard last night with little help from his o-line but I’m prepared to proved wrong by superior knowledge (not hard 🙂 )

    Hope Crosby hasn’t left his game winning field goal card in Indy and a personal lesson don’t try and give up on the Pack even in preseason at 4 in the morning… 😉

    1. Clifton will be alright, I think. The age is still a factor…players can fall off a cliff sometimes at that age. Let’s hope thats not the case here.

      So’oto and Taylor are certainly making it hard to keep them off. Think they have done a lot of good things so far.

      Grant looks great physically, and the offensive line didn’t help him out much. But he seems hesitant to me, like he’s still trying to get back into football mode. Maybe that’s just me.

      1. I don’t think Ryan Taylor is even close to a final-day roster decision… There’s A LOT of this “Taylor is making it tough for the Packers” talk going around.

        This kid is on the team. Reasons to follow. Note that no one of these makes him a lock, but when they are all put together….

        a) Draft Pick
        b) Already as good if not better blocker than any other TE on the roster
        c) Catches almost everything
        d) nasty demeanor (per team mates), very chippy and finishes off every play
        e) has four years experience playing all four special teams segments
        d) all this as a rookie

        He’s not making anything tough for the Packers. He’s making things easy. IMO, it’s already a done deal- Taylor is on this team.

  5. The back-to-back endzone plays by Bush summed up his cover skills well. On the first play, with the man in front of him in zone, he made a nice jump on the pass and got his hand in to break it up. Then, on the very next play, he looked like a lost lamb when it came to finding the ball.

    And I really liked the one-handed catch Starks made in the first half. He’s got much better hands than Grant and is a better runner. As you said on Twitter, how will he not get most of the touches this year?

    1. You’re right on about Jarrett Bush. Plays fine in zone, but ask him to cover anyone one-on-one, and he struggles. I think teams know that by now.

      I was also surprised by how soft Starks’ hands looked. Seemed pretty natural catching the ball. He might not be the named starter, but I can’t see any reason why the Packers wouldn’t give him the most touches. Heads and shoulders above Grant right now

  6. Driver sure isn’t making it easy for TT to keep him on the team. His play has not been up to DD standards and at the same time West continues to look good and plays on special teams.

    1. I thought Driver did some good things. Found a soft spot in the zone on that one third down for 20 yards. The one passed he dropped was significantly behind him and not a good throw. He’ll make the team. Keep an eye on Chastin West against Kansas City. He’s going to get a ton of looks I’d bet. Could make a strong case

  7. didn’t get to watch more than the first quarter or so (my least favorite part- I love preseason for the depth players, not the starters).

    Did Newhouse finally get time @ LT? or did they stuff him at RT again?

      1. It’s official, I’m ticked.
        Anyone know if Newhouse has been playing RT in practice since the CLE game?

        Maybe they are confident in his ability to back up LT and feel Sherrod needs the reps more than Marshall does.. But I’m miffed. Want to see this kid @ LT in live game..

    1. I’m going to re-watch the game today, but I think BTF is right: Sherrod at LT and Newhouse at RT.

  8. Going to watch the game again,but with Visine on hand to keep the red out that was burning my eyes during live play.

    1. You thought it was that bad? There was some concerning things, but some positives too. This team will be fine. The big worry is offensive line…that you can complain about. Needs to get fixed from a one-on-one standpoint quickly

      1. When many talk of the depth of our defense,I don’t expect it to allow Curtis Painter to feel any urge/yen of changing the spelling to “Curtis ala PEYnTER”.

  9. Pre-season score means nothing! Watching quality of play means everything. Since day one of camp I had advocated deciding on the starting Oline and playing the new player(s) as much as possible. They chose to rotate guys on every series and evaluate. In the long run all that happened was a break down of Oline cohession. They still have time to get up to speed by NO. But, they need a whole lot of work. 4/5 sacks a game are inexcusible. Run blocking? What run blocking?

    Clifton always starts this way. He may be even a little further behind due to lack of game condition reps. TJ was OK. He still needs more reps to get up to speed. Wells is ok and seems to be ready. Sitton has been beat twice in two games by quicker DT’s. Needs to get sharper off the ball. Bulaga is passible but needs to get more physical, especially on the run.

    I still feel the line will get better . The question is, WHEN?

    RB issues more due to bad run blocking.

    Defense still needs extra hours on the tackling dummies.

    Burrnet needs to spend some time on cover responsibilities. With Capers aggressive approach up front the safeties can’t be caught sleeping.

    KC will not show a lot next week. MM et. al. must get them prepared by NO. That game should be a statement. At home, openning the NFL season, they do not want to be embarassed that night.

    They know all this so I’m planning on a great night of Packer football.

    1. The line needs to figure it out in a hurry. You think the Saints new defensive line hasn’t been watching the Packers first unit and licking their chops? They are a talented bunch and they’d be a tall task even for a unit playing well.

      Didn’t like Burnett creeping up, especially in a Cover-2 look, but I like the way he’s played so far. Don’t think those mistakes happen in the regular season. He’s going to be a good one.

  10. When Starks was drafted, what excited me the most was the reports of him being a good pass-catcher out of the backfield. If the Packers use that weapon consistently it will help slow down the pass rush and make our OL look better than it probably is. And then they may just abandon running the ball entirely…

    1. yeah… i hope they dont make grant the starter and starks the 3rd down rb though

  11. We must remember, with Rodgers the Packers are a pass first, run second team. GB uses the pass to set up the run, therefore it always appears to me that is why the running game seems to take longer to get going. A long with that line of thinking, later on in the season other teams try to defence the pass more when playing GB, therefore making it easier for the Packers to run later in the season. GB just is not a running team.

    But, this makes it all the more important for the O-Line to protect Rodgers. Four sacks again??? That is not good. Everyone knows if Rodgers has time to throw-look out! Screen plays when done right are just as good if not more efective than running plays, plus it makes the defence cover the whole field, which wears the defence out for later in the game too. Pass blocking is the need right now and the O-line truly needs to work on that.

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