(WLAX/WEUX) – Losses don’t come much harder than the one the Green Bay Packers absorbed Sunday afternoon in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.
With Aaron Rodgers and the offense on fire in the first half, the Packers bolted out to a 28-14 halftime lead against the Colts’ vaunted defense, ranked No. 1 overall in the National Football League.
Then the game turned.
Indianapolis adjusted at halftime and the Colts defense shut down the Green Bay offense and Rodgers with two three-and-outs in the third quarter, while Philip Rivers and the Indy offense methodically chipped away at the lead.
Like he did last year as a member of the Chargers, Rivers guided his team to victory over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
The 38-year-old veteran played through a foot injury in the second half and completed 24 of 36 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Rivers spread the football to 11 different receivers and his quick release and reads limited the Packers’ ability to pressure and disrupt him.
In the decisive third quarter, he led Indy to 11 points as they controlled the ball for almost 13 minutes, six points in the fourth as they took a 31-28 lead, and to the game-winning drive in overtime after a crucial Green Bay fumble.
Indianapolis, burned in the first half for 28 points, displayed what a championship defense is made of.
The unit adjusted and held Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to just a field goal in the second half, and created Green Bay’s fourth and game-deciding turnover in overtime.
Julian Blackmon poked the football out of Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s arm as he maneuvered for extra yardage on the second play of overtime, and DeForest Buckner recovered at the Green Bay 29-yard line. Three plays later, rookie kicker Rodrigo Blankenship decided the game with a 39-yard field goal for a 34-31 victory.
Blankenship got off to a rough start, as his 50-yard field goal attempt clanked off the crossbar in the first quarter. From then on he was perfect, connecting on field goals from 37, 32, 43 in regulation and the 39 yarder in overtime.
Four turnovers (three fumbles and one interception) were killers as Green Bay fumbled away an opportunity to keep pace with New Orleans for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Green Bay entered the contest with just five turnovers.
The Packers, now 7-3, host the rival Chicago Bears Sunday night at Lambeau Field.
“It turned quickly, LaFleur said. “It was a tale of two halves. I thought in the first half, there was a lot of great, complementary football. The second half was the exact opposite and we got beat in every phase. . . and you won’t win many games with four turnovers.”