Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

08 Nov 2016

Any Given Sunday: Colts Over Packers

by Rivers McCown

On pure talent, and even on a pure play-by-play basis, the Colts' 31-26 win in Green Bay was an odd score. The simplest way to explain the result of this game is this: Indianapolis' Jordan Todman returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and the Colts did just enough from there to hold on to the win.

While Indianapolis' special teams have been pretty good in recent years, they have not often been good in this way. The last time they returned a kickoff for a touchdown was Deji Karim's 101-yarder to help defeat the Texans in 2012, in a completely meaningless game for the Colts that wound up forcing the front-running Texans down to the No. 3 seed.

Outside of that return, this game was exactly as you'd expect. Green Bay was able to get pressure on Andrew Luck and force him to win late in the down with an old dose of his typical witchcraft. The Packers were able to stymie the Indianapolis pass rush. Indianapolis overemphasized the run despite any sort of back who could make defenders miss. Green Bay remains unable to throw deep at all. On "deep" passes as defined by NFL guidelines (passes that traveled more than 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage), Aaron Rodgers was 2-of-11 for 62 yards and an interception (which was brought back on offsetting penalties). This was news to nobody who has watched the Packers over the past year, as Green Bay has shown a disturbing inability to hit big plays.

By the time Luck evaded pressure, stepped up, and hit T.Y. Hilton down the field to put the game in clock-kill territory, the underlying statistics showed a pretty clear win for Green Bay. The Packers outgained the Colts 6.2 to 5.5 in yards per play. The Packers won the turnover battle. Time of possession and total yardage were about even, and there was no massive penalty disparity.

The Packers missed a field goal and allowed the opening kickoff return touchdown. That's about all for actual surprises in this game. Everything else played out depressingly true to script, to the point where there's not much new ground to cover on either side.

By the VOA


DVOA OFF DEF ST TOT
GB 4.6% 0.6% -23.6% -19.5%
IND 14.0% 18.2% 27.0% 22.9%
VOA OFF DEF ST TOT
GB 25.0% 0.4% -23.6% 0.9%
IND 11.2% 14.1% 27.0% 24.1%

Again, the Packers missed a field goal and allowed the opening kickoff return touchdown -- and that poor special teams performance was the biggest reason they lost.

Four-Point Plays with Green Bay

As you would expect in a game with these underlying statistics, the Packers did wind up leaving a lot of points on the field. Let's examine how that happened. The Packers had three touchdown drives, and they also had five other drives that ended in Indianapolis territory.

One of those five drives ended in a punt from the Indy 45. The rest of them featured Rodgers having to claw back from at least third-and-9. I'll set aside the relative cowardice of punting in opponent territory so we can focus on the other four plays.

Third-and-goal at IND 16, first quarter

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After taking a sack on first-and-goal from the 9, the Packers were behind in the down and distance. This was a simple ball over the top to Jordy Nelson that drifted a bit long. Indianapolis was able to get pressure up the middle on this play, with Lane Taylor allowing T.Y. McGill into the throwing lane.

Third-and-11 at IND 30, first quarter

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After being set up with a short field off an Andrew Luck pick, the Packers went backwards on two failed screens to Davante Adams. Green Bay seemed to have an advantage on a 3x1 set to Rodgers' left, but tight end Richard Rodgers stumbled out of his break on a post route when he should have had a good catch opportunity. Mason Crosby then missed the field goal.

Third-and-11 at IND 33, third quarter

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Offensive holding on David Bakhtiari put the Packers into first-and-20, and Rodgers took a sack on second down after a successful play to make it third-and-11. He followed that by throwing the pick to the Colts that was overturned on offsetting penalties, on a play where he scrambled for perhaps eight seconds and heaved one to the end zone. Then, Rodgers dropped back and served up another one.

Simple post to Adams, and safety (yes, safety) Darius Butler rotates down from a Cover-2 look into a Cover-1, reads Rodgers' eyes the whole way and easily picks it off.

Third-and-9 at IND 13, third quarter

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With Green Bay set up deep in Indianapolis territory, a 1-yard Ty Montgomery run led to an official timeout after a squirrel ran onto the field. (The squirrel was immediately signed to the practice squad since it demonstrated better catching technique than Jeff Janis.) Geronimo Allison was well-covered on the end zone throw on second down. That set up this play.

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga was bullied off the snap, which forced Rodgers off his landmark. After avoiding the blitz, Rodgers was not able to see open receivers and tucked it.

Four plays that could have led to touchdowns had things gone right. The Packers managed six points on those possessions instead.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 08 Nov 2016

7 comments, Last at 10 Nov 2016, 11:19am by Noah Arkadia

Comments

1
by ammek :: Tue, 11/08/2016 - 3:24pm

"Had things gone right." A fine epitaph for this offense. It has been a while since things went right.

As the article insinuates, it's really on first and second down (particularly on first down) that things are going badly. The absence of a running game (or, more accurately, of a running back) doesn't help, and neither do the individual errors in execution highlighted in the gifs, but at root is a mismatch between players and scheme which no amount of creativity in the play selection, or improvization by the quarterback, can overcome. This offense has ceased to be. It is an ex-offense.

Everything else played out depressingly true to script, to the point where there's not much new ground to cover on either side.

Yes, I was looking forward to AGS's take on Detroit-Minnesota. Dang. The main mystery from Lambeau is why the Packers were favored by 7. At some point the gambling fraternity must realize this isn't 2014.

2
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 11/08/2016 - 4:24pm

"This offense has ceased to be. It is an ex-offense."

Rock solid Monty Python reference.

5
by Bobman :: Wed, 11/09/2016 - 2:06pm

Magnificent offense, the Wisconsin Green. Lovely plumage.

It's just sleeping there at the bottom of its cage. Look, it just moved!

6
by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 11/09/2016 - 2:41pm

This halfback wouldn't voom if you put 4,000 volts through it.

3
by LyleNM :: Tue, 11/08/2016 - 5:08pm

Indianapolis overemphasized the run despite any sort of back who could make defenders miss.

Hmm, given that GB's rushing defense was considered one of the best in the league going into the game, my thoughts in realtime were that Gore and the Colts were doing a surprisingly good job of running the ball.

I also wonder how the DVOA stacked up at the point where it was 31-13 before Rodgers started bortling and the Colts tried to repeat the Texans experience.

4
by Arkaein :: Tue, 11/08/2016 - 5:41pm

Packers are having problems in all phases, but Rodgers really has not been seeing the field all that well this year, as well as passing up easy checkdowns. In almost all of those GIFs he has someone open that he's not finding:

1. Richard Rodgers is wide open near the 5. Probably gets tackled short of the end zone, but would have had a chance. Rodgers did have pressure getting in his face though, so he couldn't hold the ball any longer.

2. Davante Adams is wide open on the dig route run behind the targeted Richard Rodgers. Nelson was also open on a shorter route. This may not have gotten the first down, but would have reduced the distance of the missed FG attempt, which has to be considered on a 3rd down at the 30 yard line.

3. Not much visible chance to pick up the first here, but Perillo is wide open underneath and would setup a FG attempt inside of the 30.

4. Quick pressure forced Rodgers to the right early, but if he had been able to work back to the left at all Trevor Davis was open on yet another in route from the left side. Given that it was a 3 man rush, I really wanted Rodgers to try to avoid the one pass rusher who had any shot at him and try to find a WR, or even just lob it to Adams in the back corner of the end zone once he got close to the sideline, instead of running ahead pointlessly.

7
by Noah Arkadia :: Thu, 11/10/2016 - 11:19am

No. 2 doesn't count, as Rogers was open, too. No. 4 was clearly a bad play on his part, however.