INDIANAPOLIS – It has been a week unlike any other for the Indianapolis Colts and as Sunday creeps even closer, the chance to give their head coach a lasting gift is approaching fast.
The Green Bay Packers will come to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday afternoon with the Colts looking to get a win, while also delivering a victory for Head Coach Chuck Pagano.
Interim Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians believes the Colts are focused squarely on the Packers and knows the challenge they present.
"The football field is kind of our safe haven, and when we get out there, it's business as usual and we stay there, we stay focused at that moment one play at a time, one day at a time," Arians said.
"I think more and more as the week progresses, more and more emphasis is going to be try to win this game for Chuck. Chuck doesn't want that. He doesn't want to put that extra pressure on these guys. Just win the game because we want to win the game, and that'll be the extra icing on the cake to give him that birthday present."
The task of neutralizing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' passing attack will not be easy for a Colts defense dealing with some injuries in the secondary.
Green Bay is 23-0 when Rodgers has a passer rating of 115 or higher, and the All-Pro signal-caller is coming off his best game of the season.
Rodgers threw for 319 yards and four touchdowns in the Packers' 28-27 win last week over the New Orleans Saints. The offense accounted for 30 first downs, which was the most a Green Bay team has had since 1989. Of those 30 first downs, 21 were through the air.
Late in the third quarter of the win over the Saints, Rodgers showed his toughness by returning from an eye injury to complete the Green Bay fourth-quarter comeback.
"I think the biggest thing is no matter what happens to Aaron (Rodgers), he's going to play 60 minutes. He could be down 14 or 20, it doesn't matter," Arians said.
"The Saints gave them a heck of a battle, but with him a lot of times it's who gets the ball last. With us, we need the ball last with the lead and hold on to it and finish it. We've gotten in situations now where we've finished one (game) but didn't finish the other."
Quarterback Andrew Luck follows his first NFL bye week with a stern test in a Packers pass defense that ranks sixth in the NFL.
Packers cornerback Tramon Williams leads the NFL with 15 interceptions the last two seasons and Charles Woodson has made the switch to safety for Green Bay.
Woodson has a knack for making big plays with nine interceptions returned for touchdowns since 2006.
"What the Packers do on defense, the turnovers they create, the negative plays they force offenses into, the sacks, you'd better be on the screws," Luck said. "You'd better be focused on what's going on especially with Charles Woodson roaming around, Clay Matthews and a lot of ballhawks on their defense."
Similar to his counterpart, Luck has shown the ability to spread the wealth to numerous targets early in his NFL career.
The Colts have had three different 100-yard receivers to start the 2012 season, which marks the first time since 1967 the club has achieved such a feat.
For the first time since 2006, Indianapolis has had seven different players score a touchdown to start a season.
A trio of positions (running back, wide receiver, tight end) have caught a touchdown pass from Luck.
For the fourth straight game, the Colts' offensive line is facing some uncertainty heading into Sunday.
Center A.Q. Shipley has been activated to the active squad with center Samson Satele nursing a leg injury.
The line protected well for Luck against the Jaguars by not allowing a sack. Luck knows no matter who is blocking for him on Sunday, the offense will face a defense with a multitude of playmakers.
The task on hand speaks for itself.
Seven Pro Bowl players are spread across the Packers' offense and defense.
It has been a difficult week around the Colts' organization and Arians wants to know that this team is focused on themselves.
There is no denying the caliber of players the Packers have on their roster, but Arians believes the Colts have some big-time players ready to show up on a grand stage.
"When I talk to our guys, I'm more interested in the Colts than I am the Packers. We'll take care of our own business. We know that they wear green and gold and they've got a lot of Pro Bowlers," Arians said.
"This is a game where our five-star players, they've got to show up. And we've got some five-star players and they need to show up in the big game. When I said five-star players this week, I wasn't just talking about (Dwight) Freeney and (Robert) Mathis, Luck's one of them, too."
Packers 34, Colts 14 – October 19, 2008
An unusual start to the 2008 season continued in Lambeau Field for the Colts. Quarterback Peyton Manning had a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns as the Colts fell to 3-3 on the year. The Colts started off the game by scoring on their first possession, as running back Dominic Rhodes finished off a 10-play, 70-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run. However, the Colts' 7-3 lead would not last very long. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers found tight end Donald Lee for a 12-yard touchdown on the Packers' next possession. Green Bay moved the count to 17-7 when Ryan Grant scored on an 11-yard run with 2:49 left in the half. Indianapolis avoided further damage when Mason Crosby misfired on a 36-yard field goal with five seconds left in the half. The Colts used some momentum from Crosby miss to begin a potential comeback. Manning drove the Colts into Packers territory on the first drive of the second half. With Indianapolis facing a third-and-six from the Green Bay 48-yard line, a Manning pass went off the outstretched hands of wide receiver Reggie Wayne and Packers safety Nick Collins intercepted the pass and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown. Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri had his 45-yard field goal on the following possession blocked and Crosby added another three points to give the Packers a 27-7 lead late in the third quarter. The Colts would try and mount one more comeback. A 74-yard drive that took just under five minutes, ended with a second interception return for a touchdown by Green Bay. Packers safety Aaron Rouse returned the interception 99 yards sealing the victory for Green Bay. Rhodes added a one-yard run in the final two minutes for the last score.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers versus the Colts defense: By Rodgers' standards it has been a sluggish start to the 2012 season. However, his 319-yard and four-touchdown performance in the Packer's 28-27 win over the Saints last week is more what the All-Pro quarterback is used to. Rodgers is not afraid to hit any of his receivers, and six different Packers have caught at least 12 passes this season. The Colts' cornerback position is a bit banged up, so the return of outside linebacker Dwight Freeney would help an Indianapolis pass rush.
Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews versus the Colts offensive line: The Colts have faced some of the premier defensive ends in the league so far this season and now will face a pure pass rusher in Matthews. From his outside linebacker position in the 3-4 defense, Matthews' seven sacks leads the NFC and ever since entering the league from USC, he has been a focal point of every offense's protection scheme. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo has had a nice start to the season for the Colts, but he is the lone starting lineman to play each game at his normal position.
The Colts are 12-8-1 all-time at home against the Packers.
Since 1990, the Colts are 13-10 following a bye.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck needs a touchdown pass to become the first Colts rookie to throw a touchdown in each of his first four games since Bert Jones did so in 1973.
Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne needs 64 yards from scrimmage to pass Edgerrin James for second on the Colts all-time list.
Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis is looking for a sack in his seventh straight game.
Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton became this year's first NFL rookie to eclipse the 100-yard receiving mark with his four-catch, 113-yard performance against the Jaguars.
Colts cornerback Josh Gordy was with the Packers in 2012.
The Packers are 10-2 in their last 12 road games, including the playoffs.
Former Colts center Jeff Saturday (1999-2011) and defensive tackle Daniel Muir (2008-11) spent time in Indianapolis.
Since 1993, the Packers rank second in the NFL with a .636 winning percentage. The Colts are fourth with a .577 winning percentage.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' passer rating of 122.5 in 2011 set an NFL single-season record.
Rodgers has thrown just 40 interceptions as an NFL starter in 2,269 attempts. That equates to a 1.83 career interception percentage which ranks first in NFL history.
The 560 points the Packers scored in 2011 are the second-most for one team in a single season.
Colts Offensive Coordinator/Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians(on overall impression of the support for Chuck Pagano):
"People don't realize the brotherhood to this business, especially those guys like Chuck and myself who have been in it a while and have moved 13 times. You meet a lot of guys and when you're on a staff, truly guys become your brothers. It shows the class of those individuals and the class of our profession. I'm extremely touched by the community and all the support that they've shown. We're going to do our best to represent and do what it takes to make everything work."
Colts Offensive Coordinator/Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians(on problems the Packers create):
"When you look at this football team, they're loaded. They're loaded with players on both sides of the ball and then the kicking end, they've been doing a fabulous job with fakes. Their roster has been built extremely well. They've done a great job over the past four or five years of getting what they needed, at younger spots. This past draft, all the defense was young players and Dom (Capers) always does a great job with those guys. But you've got to start with Aaron Rodgers and you've got to try and stop him, slow him down. (It's the) same thing defensively with Clay Matthews, (Nick) Perry, (Charles) Woodson. You've got to always know where (Woodson) is. Now that he's a safety, he blitzes like a linebacker. They present a great challenge, one that I think we're welcoming and get our crowd going, and let the chips fall."
Colts Offensive Coordinator/Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians(on if players are good at compartmentalizing):
"Yes. I think we're all trained rats. We know what day it is by what we're doing, 'We're working on the red zone today, it must be Thursday. We're working on the goal line, it must be Friday.' I have a board in my office and whatever I'm writing up on the board, that's how I know what day of the week it is. You grind it out until you play the last play of the season. That's where we're at. The players, they know the schedule. They know what's expected of them on a Monday, a Tuesday, a Wednesday, a Thursday, a Friday, a Saturday and on a Sunday. We just stay the course. The foundation has been laid, and we don't have to get off of it."
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck(on balancing having to deal with the news of Chuck Pagano and focusing on Green Bay):
"That's a good question. You try to put it aside a bit as cold as that sounds. I think all of our thoughts are with him. We break it down after practice on, 'Chuck.' I think a lot of guys are going to be playing for him for a lot of games to come. I think we also realize that he'd be disappointed in us if we weren't putting a full effort into practice, or maybe getting too low about what's going on or too emotional about it. Try to go to work. Try to do right and put the work in because I think that's what he would want."
Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers(on what separates Aaron Rodgers from the other top quarterbacks in the league)
"He can make every throw. He can put it in the tight spots. He makes audibles at the line of scrimmage to put his offense into the best situation with whatever defense he sees. He's mobile. He probably doesn't get a lot of credit for his mobility, but he can move out of the pocket and scramble for first downs. He's a confident quarterback. He's been doing it the last few years, ever since he's been the starter. He's proved that he's one of the, if not the best quarterback in the league."
Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy(on attractiveness to Jeff Saturday):
"Just his quality of play, number one. He's played in a bunch of Pro Bowls, played in a very explosive offense. Obviously, his relationship with Peyton Manning is something you look at when you are trying to pair a veteran center with our quarterback Aaron Rodgers, all those things. We really haven't gone into the free agent market the last couple years. It's something that Jeff and I laughed about since he arrived here because he never went on a free agent visit. We were sitting at dinner and no one really knew how to act. He's been a great fit for us. He's been a perfect fit as far as experience. It's new language for him. He's made that adjustment very well and I think we're getting more and more comfortable each week."
Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy(on the start of the season):
"Like everything you deal with every year, it's one day at a time. Focus on the things you can control which is a real challenge in our business because of all the coverage. Everybody follows everything you do so closely and you have to answer questions like this repeatedly but it's part of the deal. I think our players have done a good job focusing on football. We knew the first four weeks of the season were going to be a challenge just with the four national games, with the way it laid out with a long week leading up to San Francisco, and then a short week with Chicago and a long week with Seattle. It's been up and down but our record is 2-2 and we've got room for lot of improvement so that's what we're focused on."
Packers center Jeff Saturday(on returning to Indianapolis):
"You know man, it's mixed emotions. Obviously you're coming back with a job at hand, but I spent my whole career there. You're 13 years not only on a football team, but helping build a community. My wife and I for so many years have been so involved. You've got mixed emotions. It's never easy to be on the other side. I obviously have so much respect for the Colts and their organization. It's always tough. But you're coming back with a job to get a win and that's what we're going down for."
Packers center Jeff Saturday(on if Indianapolis will be home once his career is over and could he see himself working for the Colts franchise at some point):
"I think Indy is eventually my home. That's what my family, my wife, all three of my kids are Hoosiers, that's what we know. Our church is there, my kids' schools, everything is back there. We have made Indy our home for the 13 years I was there. We still have our home there and we'll go back in the offseason. I'm not planning to make any changes with that. I love that community and I've been very involved, and my wife has been very involved for so many years. I'm not going to pull up roots just because I'm not playing football. It's a great place to raise a family and I'm very proud of the community I live in.
"I know Jim (Irsay) has made it very clear that the opportunity would be there. I'll look at it. I strongly considered it this time. He made it an option before I even came back and played football. Jim has treated me as well as you could possibly ask for as an owner. Pete Ward the same way. Those guys have been just fantastic to me and have made it very clear that I'd be offered something and they would love me to be around the organization. To a man who's worked as hard and given as much as I have to that organization, that feels awfully good."