Well, at least Mother Nature was something special in Sunday.
Bathing Lambeau Field in glorious sunshine, blue skies and a record 68 degrees, she did all she could to set the stage. Packers fans arrived at Lambeau Field in a great mood from their tailgate parties and were more than ready to bask in a Packers victory. Instead, what they got was nothing special. The Packers won the coin toss and elected to defer. It was all they would win on this day.
As the crowd revved up for the opening kickoff, Mason Crosby moved forward, flanked by six players to his left and four to his right, and booted a high kick to the right corner, hoping to pin Colts return man Jordan Todman somewhere inside the 20-yard line. But Todman had other ideas.
“I saw it kind of early,” said Todman in the victorious Colts locker room. “I set up the block and saw a couple of guys go down. I instantly turned my eyes to Fergie (running back Josh Ferguson). At that time, I saw we had the inside block perfect. Once I was one-on-one with the kicker, I was confident in my speed to do that. It is a very rare play. This is my sixth year in the league and it is my first return to the house.”
For his part, Crosby knew he didn’t hit the ball as hard as he intended.
“Obviously, I tried to hit a little deeper ball but it was a returnable kick,” said Crosby. “We kind of got out-leveraged on that left side. It was a deep right kick and it just kind of hung up there. We’ve got to look at the film and evaluate what went wrong. They had a good return set up across the field and just made a good play and scored on us. That’s not the way we wanted to start this one.”
Todman raced 99 yards to a touchdown and just like that he silenced the crowd and set the tone for the entire game.
“It was a difficult, disappointing home loss,” said coach Mike McCarthy. “Indianapolis jumped on us from the first play and we frankly never brought it back. Special teams, coverage units, I think it’s obvious the way we performed there.”
Crosby’s problems continued when he missed a 48-yard field goal later in the first quarter.
“I’ll have to go back and look at it but I missed it left there. I’m obviously disappointed about it. Obviously, I didn’t help out with that kickoff and the missing that kick. I’m disappointed with that and my performance today but I’ll go back and look at it and do better with the next one.”
After Green Bay scored on a 26-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson to end the first quarter, things were looking a little brighter. But it didn’t last long. Crosby opened the second by kicking off to Todman and once again Green Bay’s coverage broke down, with Todman streaking 61 yards before he was hauled down at the Packers’ 45. Green Bay was fortunate that he didn’t go all the way again.
“Yeah, I think it was pretty much the same return,” said Crosby. “It’s something we have to take a look at and fix. I’ll keep trying to hit better balls and we’ve just got to get down there and cover it.”
While Todman was doing his damage for Indianapolis, Packers return man Trevor Davis was just itching to bust one and lift some sagging spirits on the sideline and in the stands but it didn’t happen.
“Every time I go back there, I want to take it to the house,” said Davis. “When I get my opportunities, I’ve got to make the most of them. I tried to pop that first one but it didn’t work out. I’ve got to hit the hole harder and get all I can.”
While special teams were having their problems, the Packers’ offense continues to sputter like a V-8 engine running on three cylinders. The lack of a bona fide running game again combined with a lackluster passing attack in the first half. Rodgers’ final stats (26 of 43 passes for 297 yards and three touchdowns) were offset by a fast start and clutch finish from Andrew Luck (23 of 36 for 281 yards and a touchdown).
“Andrew Luck is an amazing football player,” said Packers rookie linebacker Blake Martinez. “But when I step onto the field, after my first preseason game, I got the shell shock out of me. He’s another football player who’s going to hike the ball and throw the ball and you’ve got to be able to do your job every single play. If you don’t, he’s going to attack you and make plays.”
Offense, defense and special teams - it was the little things all afternoon that spelled doom for the Packers.
“Offensively, it was a man-to-man football game in the perimeter, so didn't get enough production out of the passing game as we would have liked,” said McCarthy. “Had some shots deep, unfortunately we didn't hit those.”
Two of those came on consecutive passes in the second quarter. Rodgers failed to connect Jordy Nelson on one deep pass. On the next play, Jeff Janis dropped a perfect pass for what should have been a 75-yard touchdown.
Even though the Packers managed to put together a pair of late touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to cut Indy’s 31-13 lead to a respectable 31-26, they ran out of steam.
“There was hope at the end but that’s the disappointing part,” said Martinez. “We had a chance and we let it slip through our fingers. Anytime you lose, it’s super-disappointing in this profession because we’re competitive. We like to win and we want to be great. It goes back to the little things, one guy here or there slipping up a little bit. We just didn’t make the plays we needed to make to stop the bleeding.”
As they say, you are what your record says you are. The record shows the Packers are 4-4. Nothing special. Monday’s film session will bear that out.