Packers vs. Colts: 5 Key Lessons Packers Learned in Preseason Week 3
The Packers took the field and won 24-21 in comeback fashion against the Indianapolis Colts in their third preseason game. The majority of the Packers starters played through the second quarter with the backups coming on to start the second half.
Aaron Rodgers was successful in the no-huddle offense and moved the ball fairly easy against the Colts defense, but failed to capitalize with touchdowns, instead settling for field goal attempts.
Rodgers got into a great rhythm on the Packers' second possession and led a beautiful 10-play, 80-yard drive for a touchdown.
The Packers' No. 1 offense was hampered by four sacks in the first half, preventing the Packers from finishing drives. The defense gave up two touchdowns to Curtis Painter and the Colts offense leading to a 14-10 score at halftime. A third-quarter Mason Crosby field goal made the game 14-13.
A fourth quarter Graham Harrell interception led to a Colts touchdown with 3:52 remaining, making the score 21-13 in favor of Indianapolis. Harrell led a comeback drive late in the fourth quarter, throwing a fourth down touchdown to tight end Ryan Taylor. Harrell passed for the two-point conversion, again to Taylor, tying the game at 21 with 35 seconds remaining.
Mike McCarthy surprised the Colts on the ensuing kickoff with an onside kick. Harrell led the Packers down the field into field goal range and set up a game winning 50-yard field goal from Crosby. The Packers improved to 2-1 in the preseason.
There were some positives that came from this game, but the Packers lacked a finishing touch on many of their first-half drives, and the backup quarterbacks were unsuccessful moving the ball down the field.
Returning home to host the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 1, the Packers starters will most likely only see a series or two. The front office will use the rest of the game to evaluate those players on the bubble.
Concerns of Offensive Line Are Very Real
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The Packers' starting offensive line had a terrible showing against the Colts, giving up four sacks of Aaron Rodgers in the first half. Chad Clifton was obliterated twice for two sacks and a holding penalty that prevented him from giving up a third.
One of the first-half sacks given up by Clifton came in part because of James Starks' failure to assist in the blitz pickup. The sacks killed drives and took points off the board for the Packers' No. 1 offense.
More consistency was expected on the offensive line, as the starting five was solidified by McCarthy giving T.J. Lang the starting spot at left guard. This was not the case, as two of the more talented and consistent players, Clifton and Josh Sitton, gave up sacks in the first half.
The backup units on the offensive line did a better job than they have so far in preseason, but there is still more to be desired.
Caleb Schlauderaff and Ray Dominguez are most likely competing for the final roster spot on the line. Both players have done fairly well, but neither has separated himself as the clear-cut favorite.
Starks Could Start Week 1
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James Starks looked healthy in his return from missing the Packers second preseason game; he could win the job against Ryan Grant. The pair alternated on the Packers first-half series after Grant started the game.
Grant has struggled to get going in any of the preseason games and is lacking the burst that made him successful in the past couple seasons. Oppositely, Starks has shown great burst on his limited carries and has been the more physical of the two backs.
If the Packers are going to implement the no-huddle offense on a regular basis, it would benefit the team to have Starks on the field rather than Grant. Starks will need to improve his pass blocking in order win the job.
Starks has hit holes with more power and always makes sure to fall forward to pick up extra yardage. The pair could share carries in the regular season, but this doesn't appear likely as McCarthy has been known to prefer using a single-back system rather than a running back by committee.
Vic So'oto Has Decent Shot to Make the Roster
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With the injury to Frank Zombo, the Packers appear slightly thin at outside linebacker. Erik Walden started opposite Clay Matthews, and Brad Jones came into the game after Matthews was done wreaking his havoc.
Undrafted out of BYU, Vic So'oto (pictured in blue) has a chance to overtake Jones and make the roster.
If you were to craft the idea of what a football player looks like, So'oto would it fit perfectly. He is extremely strong, but possesses great athleticism. He is listed by the Packers as 6-foot-3 and 263 pounds.
On the Colts' first possession of the second half, So'oto beat his man on a pass rush, sacked Curtis Painter, and forced a fumble that was recovered by one of his teammates. He has a good motor and a lot of upside.
Later in the quarter, So'oto had good pursuit of a Colts running back and forced what was initially ruled a fumble, but then overturned as the running was ruled down. Although the play wasn't officially counted as forced fumble, it was still a strong play from the player on the bubble.
No-Huddle Offense Is the Real Deal
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The Packers started the game with a dreadful three-and-out on their first drive, but picked up the pace on their second drive as they went no-huddle. Rodgers continued his masterful use of the no-huddle, completing seven of eight passes on an 80-yard scoring drive.
Rodgers ended that drive with a beautiful 18-yard touchdown pass to big tight end Jermichael Finley. They had further success with the no-huddle, adding a field goal and getting into field-goal range on another drive.
Playing most of his snaps in the no-huddle, Rodgers finished the night with an impressive 19-of-23 for 204 yards and 1 TD.
The Packers have practiced the no-huddle throughout Rodgers' career, but have not used it much before this preseason. That looks like it will be changing, as the Packers have looked unstoppable at times using the no-huddle.
When in the no-huddle, James Starks has looked like the better option than Ryan Grant. Starks has better ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and even split out wide on a couple snaps. A couple of nicely-run screen passes and a good one-handed snag surely helped state Starks' claim.
Different Defense Without Matthews and Woodson
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Most of the Packers' No. 1 defense played the entire first half, but Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson were taken out earlier than that. After those two left the game, the Packers defense struggled mightily against Curtis Painter and the Colts offense.
There was a lack of pass rush without Matthews on the field and Woodson's absence was felt in the secondary as Painter threw two touchdowns. One of Painter's touchdowns came on a blown coverage and the other on a pass completed over Jarrett Bush.
While Matthews and Woodson were on the field, the defense tormented Curtis Painter and forced some terrible throws. Without these two players, the defense lacked leadership and completely fell apart. Their backups were unable to fill the void.
Last season, the Packers had to spend time without each player as they dealt with injuries. The Packers could struggle defensively if either player suffers an injury this season. With both players in the lineup, the Packers defense is definitely in the running for best in the game.