GREEN BAY, Wisc. — Watch for a shootout, they said; this Indianapolis Colts' defense can't do a thing to stop Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers' offense.
That was the storyline told by most NFL reporters and pundits heading into Sunday's Colts-Packers matchup at Lambeau Field.
Not that they didn't have facts and statistics to back up their claims — the Colts entered the game against Rodgers, a perennial MVP candidate, ranked 29th in total defense, and second to last against the pass.
But, for most of three-plus quarters Sunday in Green Bay, that same Indianapolis defense proved, as head coach Chuck Pagano said — stealing a line from Bill Belichick and Ben McAdoo — that "stats are for losers," he told play-by-play man Bob Lamey in his postgame interview.
In an afternoon in which the Colts would lean heavily on all three phases of its team at various points of the contest, it was their defense that stepped up the first two quarters, limiting the Packers to just 10 points and 138 total yards of offense, and hanging on in the second half to earn their 31-26 win to move to 4-5 heading into the bye week.
"A tremendous, tremendous effort from this defense today," Pagano said. "They got some yards there late, but what a tremendous job that Ted Monachino and all those assistants on defense and those players did. They played their butts off."
Monachino, the first-year Colts' defensive coordinator, got creative with many of his looks to be unpredictable against Rodgers. At times, Indianapolis was playing eight-man coverage schemes, utilizing a three-man rush to be sure the coverage was there down the field.
Even so, an at-times frustrated Rodgers was flushed out of the pocket and launched several throws downfield that were either batted away or fell harmlessly to the turf. A career 65-percent passer, Rodgers completed just 7 of 17 first-half passes (41 percent) for 77 yards and a touchdown.
A big piece to the puzzle for the Colts' defense on Sunday was Darius Butler, a cornerback who was playing safety for much of the game with starter Mike Adams out with a groin injury.
The Colts played their week nine game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
The more snaps Butler got at safety, the more comfortable he became. After failing to swat down a first-quarter 26-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to wide receiver Jordy Nelson — instead going for a tough interception — Butler said he used the play as a key learning experience.
His experience — as well as his instincts — paid off midway through the third quarter, when he picked off a Rodgers pass, his second interception of the season, at the Indianapolis 21-yard line.
"I was just reading Rodgers on that play," Butler said. "He went to one of his favorite plays, and I just kind of read it and I made the play."
Butler has displayed his toughness in recent weeks by playing through a surgically-repaired fractured finger, utilizing a big, bulky cast on his hand Week 6 against the Houston Texans, and slowly seeing progress from there.
Sunday's game was really the first time Butler has been able to use multiple fingers on his right hand since suffering the injury Week 5 against the Chicago Bears.
"I told myself at halftime, 'I finally got a few fingers back. I've just got to trust my hands,'" Butler said. "And that's what I did, and fortunately I made the play."
Several other unsung heroes made plays for the Colts' defense on Sunday, including reserve cornerback Rashaan Melvin (four tackles, one for a loss, and a pass defensed), safety Clayton Geathers — who at times was used more as a linebacker — with a team-best eight tackles and a pass defensed — and fourth-year outside linebacker Lavar Edwards, who notched his second career sack in the first quarter.
In all, the Colts had three sacks on Sunday and limited Green Bay's offense — which came into the game leading the league with a 51.6-percent conversion rate on third downs — to just 4-of-12 successful third down attempts throughout the contest.
With Adams out, and with No. 1 cornerback Vontae Davis back from a concussion, but in and out of Sunday's game with other injury issues, Butler said he was happy to see his defense, particularly in the secondary, step up to the huge challenge.
"Our corners played their ass off, man. And (Rodgers) missed some throws, too, but that's part of the game. They've got to make plays just like we do," Butler said. "Rashaan Melvin made some huge plays on Nelson — Nelson's obviously one of the special receivers in this league. Frankie (Williams) came up; he balled. Vontae, you know what he was going through this week. The guys just stepped up and showed their grit and finished this game."