Then they learned what the hype was about. The league’s second-ranked defense put the clamps down on football’s top-rated quarterback after halftime while keeping the Packers off the scoreboard until the Packers forced overtime with three seconds remaining.
And in fitting fashion, a big defensive play in the extra session sealed the 34-31 victory.
Colts defense seals the win
The Packers got the ball to start overtime. Colts safety Julian Blackmon forced a fumble by Packers receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling that defensive end DeForest Buckner recovered for a turnover. Four plays later, Rodrigo Blankenship sent a 39-yard field goal through the uprights for an Indianapolis victory.
It wasn’t a vintage performance from the Colts defense but Indy came up with the big plays when it mattered most in a battle of two of the league’s best teams.
Darius Leonard follows through on promise to Aaron Rodgers
Colts All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard came into the game vowing to “leave a mark” on Rodgers after the Packers quarterback called San Francisco’s Fred Warner the best middle linebacker in football. He didn’t take long to follow through, recovering a fumbled snap by Rodgers for a Colts turnover on the game’s opening possession.
The Colts secured another Rodgers turnover before the quarter was over when cornerback Rock Ya-Sin intercepted a pass intended for Valdes-Scantling.
Rodgers is one of the best to ever play the game and is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season. So he responded to the interception by leading Green Bay on three straight touchdown drives to take a 28-14 lead into halftime.
Colts clamp down
From there, the Colts’ defense found its rhythm, stifling Green Bay for most of the second half. The Packers managed a total of 10 yards on their first two second-half possessions that ended with three-and-out punts.
Their third possession ended before it started when Darrius Shepherd fumbled a kickoff for another Packers turnover. Their fourth possession fizzled out with a turnover on downs on a failed fourth-and-1 conversion after 43 yards. The Colts led 31-28 at that point and had a chance to close out the game with 3:06 remaining in regulation.
But they gave Rodgers and the Packers one last chance, failing to run out the clock before pinning Green Bay at its own 6-yard line with a punt with 1:22 remaining. Rodgers almost made them pay. He got the Packers to midfield with a 47-yard bomb to Valdes-Scantling in triple coverage on third-and-10.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) November 23, 2020
The Packers could only convert the big play into a Mason Crosby field goal to force overtime.
And that’s where the Colts came up with their last and biggest stop of the game. On second-and-2, Rodgers looked again to Valdes-Scantling, this time in the flat.
And this time, Blackmon was ready, stripping the Packers wide receiver as he made a move upfield to force the fourth Green Bay turnover of the game.
Colts defense is dangerous
It wasn’t a perfect day by the Colts defense. But a perfect day shouldn’t be expected against one of the league’s most dangerous offenses. Rodgers finished 27-of-38 for 311 yards and three touchdowns.
His pair of turnovers — like the others by the Packers — loomed large in the end. As did the Colts outgaining Green Bay 420 yards to 367 on the day.
The loss dropped the Packers to 7-3, still good for a two-game lead over the Chicago Bears in the NFC North. The Colts improved to 7-3 to keep pace with the Tennessee Titans in the AFC South. And they convinced anyone who wasn’t paying attention before that their defense is a difference maker.
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