This was some Andrew Luck magic of a different kind.
The Indianapolis Colts quarterback, who has become well-known for his fourth-quarter comeback wins, did not need one on Sunday evening at Lambeau Field. But he nonetheless pulled a Houdini act on the Green Bay Packers.
With the home team mounting a furious fourth-quarter comeback bid, Luck completed two third-down passes on the game’s final drive to run out the final 3:29 and secure a 31-26 upset victory for the visitors.
If the 27-yarder to receiver T.Y. Hilton just before the two-minute warning was the clincher, Luck slithering away from a Ha Ha Clinton-Dix sack attempt three plays earlier was an equally hurtful set-up.
“That’s all I’ll remember,” said the Packers’ third-year safety. “Until I play next Sunday, the only thing I remember is the last play of the game, on third down.”
Until then, it had been a banner day for Clinton-Dix. Speaking to local media earlier this week about the desire to make more “splash” plays for the defense, he delivered early and often.
Clinton-Dix made his first two interceptions of the season within a span of 11 Colts offensive plays in the first quarter. The second came on a Luck overthrow of tight end Jack Doyle, which the Packers’ offense converted into their first touchdown of the game, a 26-yard pass to Jordy Nelson.
They needed it, too.
After allowing a 99-yard touchdown return to Jordan Todman on the opening kickoff, the Packers’ special-teams troubles continued with a missed 48-yard field goal by Mason Crosby. That came a series after Clinton-Dix’s first interception set the offense up at the Indianapolis 29. The Packers trailed 14-3 just over 10 minutes into the game.
“I thought (Clinton-Dix’s) two plays (interceptions) were definitely big momentum, potential swings for us,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. “I just wish we maybe would have taken more advantage of them offensively.”
On defense, the Packers threw a variety of pressures and coverages at Luck throughout the game. They got him with a unique formation on Clinton-Dix’s first interception.
On that play, the Packers lined up three safeties deep in a triangle with Clinton-Dix at the top. When cornerback Quentin Rollins passed off receiver Philip Dorsett to deep coverage down the right sideline, Clinton-Dix swooped in for his first pick of the season.
Though Clinton-Dix gave credit to Mike Daniels’ pressure of Luck for creating the opportunity, Luck was locked in on Dorsett from the snap and Clinton-Dix’s quick reaction made for an easy pick.
Luck came into the game as the most-sacked quarterback (31 times) in the league. The Packers got eight hits on him but brought him down only twice. One was a combination sack with Clinton-Dix and linebacker Nick Perry. It came on a double cornerback pressure that will also haunt Clinton-Dix because of what happened when the Packers brought the same blitz later.
Without Perry to help clean up, Clinton-Dix was unable to bring down Luck on the pivotal play of the final drive, a third-and-10 from the Colts’ 25.
Though he came unblocked with Luck dead in his sights, a shoulder shake by the Colts’ quarterback was enough to step up in the pocket. With the extra second, Luck hit Doyle for a 20-yard gain, forcing the Packers to take their final timeout with 3:07 left.
“He’s huge. He’s a strong quarterback,” said Clinton-Dix. “With the way you can go in, you can’t really go in low and hit him low. I took my chance high and I missed. He’s a great quarterback. I made a mistake and I’ve got to learn from it.
“That’s a play I’ve got to make and I want to make. I let him get away from me and I’ve got to move on.”
Three plays later, on a third-and-2, Hilton’s catch salted the game away.
Despite Luck’s final drive heroics, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished with a higher passer rating (94.8 to 74). The Packers trailed 31-13 at the 9:35 mark of the fourth quarter yet had a chance by the game’s final drive.
But for the second straight week, albeit under different circumstances, the Packers defense was unable to get the critical stops when they needed to at the end.