GREEN BAY, Wisc. — Late last week, Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano revealed to reporters what the message was to his team heading into its road matchup against the Green Bay Packers: win the first and last five minutes of each half.
It took Jordan Todman all of 13 seconds to get the Colts off on the right foot Sunday at legendary Lambeau Field.
Todman took the game's opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, giving the Colts their first kickoff return for a score since 2012, but, more importantly, taking care of the whole "quick start" hurdle for his team.
He would add another 61-yard return in the second quarter that led to an Adam Vinatieri field goal, giving the Colts all the special teams spark they needed in their 31-26 victory over the Packers, their first win in Green Bay since 1988.
"It's huge," Todman said when asked about the way the return game made its mark on Sunday. "But like I said, we're a family, we're brothers, we feed off each other. And we need each other to make plays, and we start off the first play of the game like that? It's like, 'Alright, boom.' Got everybody here excited, and now we want more, we want more. It becomes a big thing and we keep striving for it."
Todman's first return was certainly a thing of beauty.
After the Packers won the opening coin toss but elected to defer to the second half, kicker Mason Crosby put his right foot into the ball and sent it sailing towards the south end zone. Todman received the kick around his own 1-yard line at the left hash mark, and made a move to his right, where a hole had already formed, thanks to Frankie Williams on his right and a host of blockers to his left.
But Todman got the boost he really needed around the 23-yard line, where fellow running back and return man Josh Ferguson was able to deliver a punishing block to the Packers' Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, catapulting Todman down the right sideline. He turned on the burners around the Colts' 40-yard line, zooming past Crosby, and had enough room to get in a couple high steps as he found the end zone a couple seconds later, giving his team an early 7-0 lead.
"The first one, man, it was great blocks. I seen a couple guys fall down, and Fergie (Josh Ferguson), Ferg hit me with a nice block, got me released, and I seen some open grass, and it was off to the races after that," Todman said. "I gave everything I got and was to finish, and it was a great feeling.
"You love that — you know, we live for that."
Photos from the post game celebration at Lambeau Field.
The play not only gave the Colts an early lead, but it helped by immediately taking the crowd out of the game.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, when asked about his "win the first and last five minutes of each half" challenge, simply said of Todman's return touchdown: "We got out of the gate."
"And that was an unbelievable football play," Pagano continued. "(Special teams coordinator) Tom McMahon does a phenomenal job — Mo Drayton, his assistant — they do a great job. And they push these guys and they coach these guys and he finds every little deal, and that thing was blocked up. And Todman can run, you know? And he had an opening there, and he hit it.
"We talked about the first five and how important it was for us to jump out and come out and play efficient and execute and play with great effort, and what a start he gave us," Pagano said of Todman. "And we just kept going from there."
Todman nearly housed another kickoff in the second quarter, taking a Crosby kickoff six yards deep in the end zone and returning it all the way to the Green Bay 45-yard for a 61-yard play.
Eight plays later, Vinatieri connected on a 28-yard field goal — remarkably the first-made field goal of his 21-year NFL career at Lambeau Field (and extending his NFL record to 44 straight made kicks) — to extend the Colts' lead to 17-10 with 12:09 left in the first half.
For Todman, his performance against the Packers was all about opportunities. When the team's top kick and punt returner Quan Bray was placed on IR with a fractured ankle, it needed someone to step in and play those roles.
While the punt returner situation is still up in the air, Todman showed Sunday he's more-than-capable of handling the kick returner duties.
Most importantly to Todman, however, was that the Colts earned a true team win to move to 4-5 heading into the bye week.
"Definitely a complete win, and we need all three phases to click and go out there and play well," Todman said. "And it was great to have the (special) teams, the defense, the offense, and we fed off each other from the first play of the game, and I felt like we continued to feed and feed, and it was a great feeling."