With eight seconds left in the Packers-Colts game, sitting on a 51-yard field goal attempt for Mason Crosby, Aaron Rodgers let the play clock run down to one second and was forced to burn his team's last timeout. One TV break later, Crosby lined up to kick from the right hash mark and missed it way left. The opportunity to throw anywhere on the field and get a few yards closer to the end zone, making life easier for Crosby, had been wasted. Coach Mike McCarthy had little choice but to kick the field goal on second and 10.
Yes, for the second week in a row, the Packers' offense scored four touchdowns. But after dominating the Colts in the first half, Green Bay broke into tiny pieces in the second. Here are the Packers' first six drives in the second half: interception, punt, missed field goal, punt, punt, punt. McCarthy called twenty passing plays compared to five called runs, which netted a total of one yard. Rodgers was sacked five times and the Packers didn't score a point during that time. And all the while the Colts were creeping back into the game.
Green Bay finally got it together after Casey Hayward picked off Andrew Luck, with Alex Green ripping off a 41-yard run and James Jones catching an eight-yard pass from Rodgers. But after the Packers' two-point conversion attempt failed, the defense allowed Luck and Co. to march down the field for the eventual game-winning TD, setting up the failed field-goal attempt.
Yes, the Packers lost starting running back Cedric Benson and No. 1 tight end Jermichael Finley to injuries in the first half. Perhaps that was why McCarthy, just two weeks after calling an onslaught of passes in the Seattle first half and watching Rodgers get sacked eight times, did the same thing and got the same result Sunday. And yes, the pass-rush allowed Luck to operate with impunity in the second half after shutting him down in the first, and yes, the secondary watched 34-year-old Reggie Wayne have a career day. These are all part of the reason why the Packers lost, football being the collective effort that it is.
But let's not exonerate Rodgers here. His ten touchdowns notwithstanding, after five games it's clear that last year's MVP just has not been the same player in 2012. He's playing like it's 2009 all over again. Against the Colts, Rodgers stuttered his feet in the pocket, scrambled into sacks instead of out of them and seemed almost reluctant to set his feet and drive the ball downfield. The play-clock mismanagement that forced Crosby to kick from 51 instead of potentially closer was just one stunningly un-Rodgers-like error. Another was a flagrant illegal forward pass early in the third quarter when the QB was two yards past the line of scrimmage. He hasn't looked good mechanically, in my very limited knowledge, and he's made weird mental errors.
I wish this was a one-game aberration, but Rodgers' excellent Week 4 showing against the Saints' awful defense is looking more and more like the outlier in 2012. When was the last time you saw Rodgers underthrow a receiver the way he underthrew Nelson on that go route-turned-pick against the Saints? Rodgers has looked ordinary against three good defenses and poor against the Colts' cornerback-less units. The 26-yard laser to Randall Cobb that keyed the Packers' doomed final drive was as authoritative as Rodgers has looked all season. He set his feet and threw a perfect rocket through the holes in the Colts' zone. If he had only found that poise one quarter earlier, the Packers would most likely be sitting at 3-2 instead of 2-3.