INDIANAPOLIS – When the final gun sounded in Lucas Oil Stadium last Sunday at 4:30 p.m., the Colts had earned one of the most momentous wins in franchise history.
The team wiped out an 18-point halftime deficit with a 27-6 final 30 minutes, tallying the winning points in the last 35 seconds.
The Colts defeated Green Bay in stunning style, and they did so with a roster that had 22 players with no more than two years of experience.
While the club has produced many compelling comebacks it is history, rarely had it done so with so many fresh faces.
The view now? Certainly not backwards. There is no time to dwell.
“I told the guys today, ‘This car cannot have a rearview mirror,’ ” said interim coach Bruce Arians on Monday. “We can’t ever look back at this moment and pat ourselves on the back, or we’ll get our butts kicked by the Jets.
“It’s business as usual, (the) 24-hour rule. The game is over. They have until (Monday night). It’s over for the coaches, we’re already onto New York. That’s all our focus at this point, and it has to be. We’ve set a nice standard of 30 minutes of football. We dug a deep enough hole with the first 30 minutes that we were fortunate to get out of it with a victory. We learned our lesson and go on.”
The game had an unusual flow. Green Bay jumped to a 21-3 lead with offensive precision over the first 25 minutes, while the Colts exhibited little of their own.
The tone for the second half reversed quickly as
The Colts seized the lead with 8:04 to go, then watched as Rodgers put his club ahead with 4:30 left. Indianapolis then drove 80 yards in 13 plays, converting three third downs, to score the winning points.
The offensive exploits were joined by a defense that leveled Rodgers five times in the second half, four in the final quarter.
Arians, coaching for an ailing Chuck Pagano, noted the difference, and it was a change in the level of play that must last.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt the last 30 minutes is the standard that we set for ourselves now,” said Arians. “We played smarter, we played faster, we played up to our ability. Now, we have to maintain that.”
As much as anyone, Arians was dealing with the emotions of Pagano’s battle with leukemia. While his leader and friend is fighting admirably, Arians espouses Pagano’s long-standing order to the team to fight hard, play smartly and win.
“I don’t put the (sub-standard) first half performance on emotion,” said Arians. “I don’t know what it was. We talked a lot about it in the meeting. We had more mental errors in the first half on things that we practiced all week than we have in any other ballgame.”
Indianapolis used a no-huddle attack about 80 percent of the time during the game. It was doing so with a rookie quarterback, two rookie tight ends and an offensive line that was starting its third different unit in four games.
The offense snapped a team-record 89 scrimmage plays and improved along the way. Pagano and the staff hit the team aggressively in the months prior to the season because the focus was on achieving on Sundays and not taking anything less than a full-speed approach to winning.
The efficiency over the final 30 minutes pleased Arians, particularly the third quarter. Indianapolis had been out-scored, 20-3, in the third quarters of previous games and had incurred uneven play on both sides of the ball.
“It was a definite difference between the first half and the second half, of how fast we were playing,” said Arians. “Good things did happen to make them steamroll, but we’ve got to be able to start games that way now. We’ve hopefully fixed that bugaboo in the third quarter that we addressed last week.
“Defensively, we did a better job on first down, and did a great job on third down, especially in the second half getting off the field, on offense controlling the ball and converting third downs. We shot ourselves in the foot in the first half on third-and-two-to-six, the easy ones. I think we were 0-4. And then we make third-and-nine, third-and-11, all the hard ones in the second half. I think it’s that type of game.”
“We have to. We have no choice,” said Bethea. “It was a good, emotional win to be able to finish the first quarter (of the season) off at .500. We have to go to New York in a hostile environment and try to get this winning streak going.
“Coaches are always talking about being even-keeled. Good times and the bad times, just being even-keeled (is important), just know how to handle both situations.”
“We are used to doing that, well at least I’m used to doing that around here,” said Freeney of getting re-focused. “For all the years I’ve been here, we’ve had high moments and we’ve had low moments. That was great that week or that was disappointing that week, or whatever week that was.
“That (the win over Green Bay) can’t help us for this week. We are facing a new opponent, and you have about 24 hours to celebrate, get it out of your system and re-focus. This is the National Football League. Forget about it and go onto the next one.”
ROSTER MOVES -- The Indianapolis Colts today signed nose tackle Antonio Dixon and elevated linebacker
Dixon, 6-3, 322, has appeared in 35 career games (10 starts) with Philadelphia, totaling 49 tackles (39 solo), three sacks and two passes defensed. Brown, 6-4, 265, was signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent on May 23, 2012. He was waived on August 31 before being signed to the practice squad on September 1. Geathers, 6-7, 325, has appeared in seven career games, including five last season with Dallas. He was originally drafted by Cleveland in the sixth round (186th overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft. After being waived by the Browns on September 4, 2010, Geathers had brief stints with Miami and Seattle before joining the Cowboys later in 2010.
King originally was signed by the Colts on June 8, 2012. For his career, he has appeared in 38 games (19 starts), totaling 114 tackles (97 solo), 11 passes defensed, one interception, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. This year, he played in three games and recorded three tackles and two passes defensed.