Jclombardi reviews Packers preseason win against Colts.
Guest senior writer jclombardi @ http://lombardiave.com
Summary: While the Packers’ starting defense struggled early against QB Manning and the Colts, the special teams had two touchdowns to lift the team and the Rodgers’ offense machine led the way to the 59-24 preseason victory. The Packers improved to 2-1 heading into the final preseason finale at the Chiefs.
Highlights: Rodgers, offense dazzle in blowout against Colts. Notebook: Special teams score key plays on Colts. Notebook: LG Goes To Colledge. Zombo turning heads with big plays. Masthay, Burnett, Zombo, Shields solid. Packers’ victory does have dark side. Post game notes: Colts-Packers. Insider: Masthay gains edge with magnificent punt. Packers Recover To Clobber Colts. Packers exhibit firepower.
Big game changing play: Packers trailed 17-14 with 3:34 remaining in the second quarter when an offensive drive stalled at the Green Bay 47-yard line. P Masthay hit a 45-yard punt to the Indianapolis 8-yard line, where PR James misjudged the flight of the ball. James over-ran the punt and muffed the return off his shoulder pads. The ball checked into the end zone where HB Hall recovered it for a touchdown.
Injury report: CB Underwood (shoulder), LB Bishop (hamstring), DE Wynn (concussion), and RB Porter (knee sprain).
Coach McCarthy: “I thought the offense was productive, but the contrast of our identity as a football team is taking the football away, which I felt we did a very good job of tonight. But we didn’t do a very good job of taking care of the ball. We had the ball on the ground too many times.”
DC Capers–“Two plays and they go right down the field, and you’re playing against Manning, you know that that can get out of control in a hurry. I thought the guys kept their poise and showed a little presence to come back, and I thought we did some good things after that. I certainly didn’t like the way we started but I like the way we bounced back.”
1. Special teams improved–hit and miss with two bad returns; yet, they had two touchdowns including the big punt fumble recovery for a touchdown in the first half that turned the game around leading to the blowout. In the second half, KR Chery had a 75 punt return for a touchdown.
2. Rodgers offense stellar–matching Manning’s early firepower, with solid protection, QB Rodgers offense stayed with the Colts while special teams and big plays turned the game around for a victory. Rodgers completed 21 of 29 passes for 195 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Colts. Rodgers preseason stats are an outstanding 41 of 53 passes for 470 yards, 6 touchdowns, and zero interceptions with almost a perfect passer rating of 154.
3. Defense shaky early–they gave up 17 early first half points against Manning. Early, Capers zone coverage was ineffective with the entire coverage corps getting burnt. As a bright spot, excluding the 48 yard run by RB Addai on the first Colts drive, the 1st team run defense was solid. Another bright spot was an improved rush with some pressure. NT Raji looked solid. LB Zombo got a big play sack against Manning with the forced fumble returned for nearly a touchdown.
4. Nickle cornerback job–no clear winner. CB Underwood played two series, CB Lee played one series, and CB Shields finished out the first half with the No. 1 defense. Shields had an impressive quick-reaction interception in the 4th quarter. CBs Underwood and Lee did little to solve the question about who will be the team’s nickel back on opening day, adding even more concern in the secondary given the troubles starter CB Williams had against all-pro WR Wayne.
5. Rookies performances strong–Rookies S Burnett, LB Zombo and CB Shields solidified themselves as legitimate impact players for the final roster with strong performances. All rookies S Burnett, CB Shields, TE Quarless, LB Zombo, DE Neal, and OT Newhouse had good games with some big plays. Rookie S Burnett made two big plays showing good instincts and great range early in the game for nearly one interception and getting a great read interception to pick off Manning. Free agent rookie OLB Zombo finished with a team-high nine tackles (including five solo stops), big play sack, and forced fumble. DE Neal is a force, but he needs to improve on his techniques beyond power rushing. CB Shields looked good in special teams, struggled in coverage, and got an interception. TE Quarless looked solid with a touchdown catch.
6. Running game fine, but fumbles concern–RB Grant had 8 carries for 36 yards and RB Jackson had 7 carries for 14 yards. RB Lumpkin had 9 carries for 26 yards, 1-yard TD run to cap 90-yard drive in the fourth quarter, and 22-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass on that drive giving him 48 scrimmage yards. Yet, RB Grant fumbled for the second straight game. RB Jackson had a huge fumble in the red zone on a big hit too, after the big play interception by rookie S Burnett set up the offense deep in Colts territory. Troubling issue.
7. Punting competition–P Masthay edged ahead with his huge only 53 yard punt with 5 second hang time that was mishandled for a Packers touchdown. P Bryan averaged only 38.5 yards on his two low punts.