INDIANAPOLIS –The Colts defense was out-played in the first half. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had two touchdowns, the Green Bay offense converted 11 first downs and the Colts trailed 21-3 at intermission.
On an emotional afternoon overshadowed by the absence of Head Coach Chuck Pagano, the Packers looked to be on their way to a blowout win and a Colts 1-3 record seemed imminent.
Then the defense responded.
"We didn't draw up nothing different, we didn't do no exotic stuff, we just said, 'You know what? Enough is e-freakin'-nough. Put our foot down and let's go after this ball and make them beat us,' " said defensive end Cory Redding. "Our attitude changed in the second half."
The Colts' second-half defense tightened and took over. They swarmed to the ball, hurried, sacked and knocked down 2011 NFL MVP Rodgers, and forced punt after fourth-quarter punt.
The Colts are now 2-2 after the 30-27 win.
The Indianapolis defensive resume in the second half included four punts, two missed field goals, a missed two-point conversion and a Jerraud Powers interception on the first drive of the second half that sparked the Colts' 18-point comeback.
"(Momentum) definitely swung," said Powers, who finished the game with a co-team high four tackles on the day. "I was able to get a pick that first series and the offense drove it down and scored. That's kind of what we've been talking about all year – the more turnovers you create, the more chances you can get it to Andrew (Luck) and our offense, the better off we can be."
The interception at the Green Bay 39-yard line led to a Dwayne Allen touchdown five plays later, which sparked the comeback. It tied the third-largest in Colts history.
The Colts defense averaged almost 17 points allowed per game in the second half heading into Sunday's game. The six points allowed in the fourth quarter were the least all season, and the five sacks recorded were the most all year.
According to Redding, it all came down to executing the game plan.
"Take care of Cedric Benson first of all, stopping the run," said Redding. "And then, two, getting on the passer, you know, mixing it up on the back end where you can't read our coverages as much and trying to eliminate the big plays. They're going to make big plays because they've got great players over there and Aaron (Rodgers) was leading the way. We just had to hold on and make more plays than they did, and we did."
Though the Colts made few adjustments technically, the front four hit and hurried Rodgers relentlessly during the second half. All five defensive sacks came after halftime, four of which came in the fourth quarter.
"We felt like our front four were going to be huge in the game. Once we found our rhythm, they did a great job to put pressure on them," said Powers.
The Colts' defensive success was in part due to the return of Dwight Freeney, who missed the last two games with an ankle injury. He recorded two solo tackles and one sack. Indianapolis is now 25-8 when Freeney and fellow linebacker Robert Mathis record sacks in the same game.
Numbers and statistics aside, emotion may have been the difference-maker in this gritty win.
"(Interim head) coach (Bruce) Arians said we've got to control our emotions. It's going to be very emotional just knowing what Coach Pagano's going through and what we said we were going to do, how we were going to play," said safety Antoine Bethea. "Just control our emotions, and I think we did that."
Following an impassioned post-game locker room celebration, defensive players echoed the same sentiment about the comeback victory – this one was for Pagano.
"As a player, you are an image of your coach," said Redding. "Our coach is tough, hard-nosed, a blue-collar kind of guy. Put your hard hat on and go to work. No matter what's going on, don't blink. Don't ask, 'Why,' say, 'Why not?' That's the kind of guy he is, and that's the kind of reflection we have as a team."