Colts defense stifles Aaron Rodgers late, seals thriller over Packers with OT turnover

·4-min read

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers torched the vaunted Indianapolis Colts defense for 28 points in the first half on Sunday.

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.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) runs from Indianapolis Colts' DeForest Buckner (99) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
The vaunted Colts defense came through when it mattered on Sunday. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

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.

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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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