For Slowik, the blame comes from not giving his players the help they needed to slow Peyton Manning's aerial assault. The Colts passed the ball all 22 first-quarter snaps Sunday, yet Slowik steadfastly stuck with his base defensive unit, which led to single coverage all over the field against the Packers' overmatched defensive backs. The result was three first-quarter touchdowns and another drive that had negotiated 69 of the 94 yards needed for a fourth touchdown about a minute into the second period. With those four quick touchdowns, the Colts were on pace to score 105 points.
"I did a lot of things wrong. Believe me when I say that it's easy to say after the fact," Slowik said Monday. "If I'd have known they were going to throw it that often, I would have helped the guys on the edges a lot quicker (and been) in more Cover 2, things of that nature.
"I wish I would have been able to go to that a little quicker. One of the things we needed to do was play the pass and if (they) ran the ball, force them to the run it and slow down the run game."
Hindsight being 20-20, Slowik regretted stacking the line of scrimmage on nearly every snap and blitzing frequently. The Packers' secondary, plagued by injuries to begin with, had no answers for the Colts. Starters Al Harris and Michael Hawthorne are perfectly suited for the big receivers of the NFC North, but they were completely overmatched against the swift, made-for-artificial-turf Colts wideouts.
Slowik said the defense's biggest fear was a repeat of the Chicago game, in which the Bears rushed for 184 yards. That fear only grew when the Packers, already without nose tackle Grady Jackson, learned they would be without his backup, James Lee. Thus, the Packers stayed in their base defense — four defensive linemen and three linebackers — to stop Colts running back Edgerrin James. One problem, though: James never rushed the ball in the first quarter and got it only three times in the first half.
"We wanted to assure the fact that we didn't let Edgerrin James get going," explained Slowik. "But it so happens that wasn't even in their plan. It took us a series to get going on that."
Way more than a series.
The Packers finally turned to their dime defense — four linemen, one linebacker and six defensive backs — in the second half, and the change worked as the Colts were held to only 10 second-half points. Which begs the question: Why so long to make the change?
"A no-huddle offense creates a substitution problem getting your guys on and off the field," head coach Mike Sherman explained. "They got us once with 12 men on the field. We tried to stay in our base on early downs hoping we'd be able to defend the run and bringing people with our zone dogs to apply pressure."
That's exactly the philosophy Colts coach Tony Dungy was counting on seeing.
"We saw how they played Chicago and Carolina, and we said if they play us the same way we'll probably throw it every down. And we're going to throw it until they don't play us that way anymore," Dungy said Monday.
Dungy's plan was perfect as the Colts piled up big play after big play. Reggie Wayne had his way with Hawthorne and then James Horton. Slot receiver Brandon Stokley often found himself matched up against safety Darren Sharper. Sharper is a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but he's not suited for man coverage against a wide receiver, as was apparent on the Colts' second touchdown. The Packers sent eight at Manning. Sharper bit on Stokley's stop-and-go route, and Stokley blew past him for a ridiculously easy touchdown.
So, for the second week in a row, the Packers' attacking defense has been put on its heels. Instead of the Packers forcing the issue defensively, they have been forced to change their plan at midstream because the original game plan was being shredded. Two weeks ago, the Bears' misdirection running game forced Slowik to stop blitzing. Sunday, the inability to rush Manning or cover the receivers forced Slowik into a low-risk dime defense.
The blame for that, Harris said, falls on the players.
"I just hate that everyone is being so hard on (Slowik)," Harris said. "He's just a coordinator, you know what I mean? We're the guys who are getting paid. And (the Colts) had a good plan. Don't take anything away from them. They picked their spots and they knew what was going to be open. He knew what we were in. Peyton did a great job."
"The Colts are a top-flight outfit that's going to score some points, but I think we beat ourselves more than those guys beat us," said Sharper. "It wasn't that they were more talented. It's just that we weren't in the proper places that we needed to be."
Despite being gouged in the last two games and the big-play defense providing just three sacks and four takeaways in three games, Sherman said he's confident the defense will turn things around.
"We certainly haven't played the way we'd like to, but it's a long season," Sherman said. "If you check our teams, they get better throughout the season. We have some personnel issues, obviously, that we have to address. But this defense will be a good defense. I have confidence that will happen."