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AIR ASSAULT HEADS TO INDIANAPOLIS

Posted Oct 6, 2012

For the first time since 2004, the Green Bay Packers will head to Indianapolis to take on a Colts team coming off a bye week.

INDIANAPOLIS – If today’s meeting between the Colts and Packers rivals anything to what the two teams experienced in their 2004 contest in Indianapolis, then fans in Lucas Oil Stadium will be talking about this one for a long time.

 

Flash back to September 26, 2004 and the matchup of quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Brett Favre dominated the storylines heading into the Week 3 contest.

 

Favre’s resume glistened with three NFL MVP honors and Manning was fresh off winning his first in 2003.

 

The hype surrounding the meeting of the two signal-callers was growing to the point where the game could not possibly live up to the billing.

 

It took less than a quarter, but Favre and Manning quickly debunked that thought.

 

Manning struck first, just 1:45 into the game, with a 36-yard touchdown to wide receiver Reggie Wayne.

 

The Packers would answer as Favre drove the offense 82 yards in nine plays, capped off by his own 36-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Javon Walker.

 

Tied at seven, Manning and the offense would take one less play and five fewer seconds than the first drive for the Colts’ next touchdown. Wide receiver Marvin Harrison hauled in a 28-yard touchdown with 6:59 to go in the first quarter to give the Colts a 14-7 lead.

 

The Favre response would come just 16 seconds later as Walker’s 79-yard touchdown reception brought the teams even again at 14.

 

Any chance to catch your breath for a defensive stop was not on the horizon with Manning throwing his third touchdown of the first quarter to wide receiver Brandon Stokley. The 34-yard touchdown to Stokley ended the first quarter with the Colts leading 21-14.

 

With 10:49 gone in the opening quarter, the teams had combined for five touchdowns (all through the air) on just five possessions. The average length of the scoring drives covered just over 70 yards in five plays with the time a little more than two minutes per drive.

 

The pace finally settled on the Packers next possession as the Colts forced a punt before the scoring got started again.

 

Manning found Stokley on a 27-yard touchdown strike giving Indianapolis a 28-14 lead with 13:43 left in the second quarter.

 

Green Bay added a 38-yard Ryan Longwell field goal on the following possession before the Colts had their first non-scoring drive of the game.

 

The scoring hiatus would not last more than a drive for Indianapolis as Manning threw his fifth and final touchdown of the first half with 57 seconds remaining. Running back James Mungro scored on a one-yard reception completing a 35-17 lead for the Colts.

 

Taking a look at the halftime box score, one could easily mistake it as an entire game’s worth of stats.

 

Manning was 23-of-31 for 320 yards and five touchdowns. Three Colts receivers had at least five catches (Harrison, Wayne and Stokley) and two went over 100 yards receiving (Wayne and Stokley).

 

Favre was 14-of-20 for 205 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Walker led all players with 143 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

 

The start of the second half began in similar fashion to the beginning of the game.

 

Green Bay got the scoring started as Favre and Walker continued their historic afternoon with a 12-yard touchdown hookup to bring the Packers within 35-24 with 10:03 remaining in the third quarter.

 

Both teams’ defenses strung together back-to-back stops before the Colts got back in the scoring frenzy.

 

Indianapolis kicker Mike Vanderjagt booted a 45-yard field goal on a 10-play drive that began with six runs by Edgerrin James on the first seven plays of the series.

 

The Packers would answer 22 seconds later with wide receiver Donald Driver hauling in a 27-yard grab from Favre.

 

With the Colts leading 38-31 with 13:12 remaining in the game, it would be up to the Indianapolis defense to preserve a victory that would be remembered for the offensive display.

 

After Indianapolis punted on its next two drives, the Packers took over at their own 21-yard line with 8:19 to go.

 

The Green Bay drive began with four straight completions but Walker was stripped by Colts cornerback Jason David on his final completion of the afternoon and Colts cornerback Nick Harper recovered the loose football.

 

Form there, the offense put together a “methodical” 36-yard, nine-play drive that James finished off with a one-yard touchdown with 1:49 left.

 

The 45-31 final carried out the pre-game storylines with both quarterbacks putting together two of their finest outings of their careers.

 

Only three Colts who played in the 2004 thriller remain on the roster eight years later.

 

Outside linebacker Robert Mathis has tried, but not successfully, to put that game out of his memory.

 

“Yeah, I remember that game. As a defensive guy, you try to forget it,” Mathis said with a chuckle. “It was a great game to see two NFL greats in Favre and Manning go head-to-head. Hopefully it won’t be that way this time.”

 

Today will mark the first time the Colts and Packers will meet in Indianapolis since that historic game. Gone are Favre and Manning, but a pair of quarterbacks have each organization pointing toward a promising future.

 

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is in his fifth season as the starting quarterback for Green Bay and is coming off one of the greatest seasons a signal caller has ever seen in the NFL.

 

In 2011, Rodgers threw for 4,643 yards and became the only NFL player in history to throw 45 touchdowns and have six or fewer interceptions.

 

The Colts’ task of defending Rodgers comes after three straight weeks of facing Pro Bowl running backs. For many of the Colts defenders, it will be the first time going up against the All-Pro quarterback but they are ready for the challenge.

 

“You love playing against the best and right now you can definitely state your case that (Rodgers) is the best or top two, top three, best quarterbacks in the league,” cornerback Jerraud Powers said.

 

“He’s had some phenomenal years since he took over the starting job at Green Bay. They’ve got a great system, some great athletes, Greg Jennings and all those guys over there are phenomenal athletes and receivers along with a great quarterback. It’s always fun to play against those guys because you are definitely going to have your opportunities to make plays.”

 

Mathis, Freeney and Antoine Bethea are the lone Colts defenders who were on the field the last time these two teams met in 2008.

 

Rodgers had pedestrian numbers compared to his standards throwing for 186 yards behind 21-of-28 passing in a 34-14 win for the Packers.

 

Colts backup quarterback Drew Stanton spent the last five seasons playing for the Detroit Lions and was a divisional foe of Rodgers.

 

According to Stanton, the hardest thing about defending Rodgers is he is not afraid to throw to any of his targets on the field at any given time.

 

“He puts the ball in places you wouldn’t expect it,” Stanton said of Rodgers. “He does a great job of being on the same page with four or five different receivers that you have to be able to account for. You couple that with his escape ability, there’s a reason he is as good as he is.”

 

Keeping plays alive with your feet is something Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has shown an ability to do early in his NFL career.

 

The Colts’ rookie signal-caller downplayed any possible “matchup” with Rodgers instead choosing to focus on the Packers’ defense and the challenge it presents.

 

For Indianapolis, the bye week is in the past and the task of trying to contain one of the game’s best quarterbacks is at the forefront of every defender’s mind.

ROSTER MOVE -- The Indianapolis Colts today waived wide receiver Kris Adams and elevated offensive tackle Tony Hills from the practice squad to the active roster.

Hills, 6-5, 304 pounds, is in his fifth NFL season having spent time with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2008-10) and Denver Broncos (2011). He competed in four regular season contests as a member of the Steelers in 2010. Hills was originally signed to the Colts practice squad on September 18, 2012.

Adams was signed by the Colts as a free agent on June 5, 2012. In three games this season, he caught two passes for 26 yards.

 

“I see one of the top-tier quarterbacks in the league,” Mathis said of Rodgers. “He has total control of his offense and he will make you pay if you are not on your detail.”

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