The twists and turns of the 2012 NFL season continue to unfurl, and not even the old officials can stave off the surprises each week seems to bring.
The Indianapolis Colts, just days after learning of Head Coach Chuck Pagano's diagnosis with leukemia, overcame a 21-3 halftime deficit to beat the visiting Green Bay Packers 30-27 in a game that could come back to haunt the 2010 Champions even more than the "Inaccurate Reception" game of two weeks ago.
In the most entertaining of the early games in Week 5, Green Bay continued its erratic play as it has all year, and rookie Andrew Luck kept his team's ship afloat long enough to battle back from an 18-point hole.
Here are 5 things we learned in this game:
1. Andrew Luck has the mettle of a seasoned NFL quarterback after just 5 games.
The rookie signal caller bettered Aaron Rodgers most of the day, throwing for 362 yards and 2 touchdowns, including the game winner to Reggie Wayne with 35 seconds left in regulation. Luck battled pressure all day, standing tall in the pocket, stepping up to avoid the outside rush of Clay Matthews, and using his feet to buy time and make clutch throws downfield. While he made his share of poor throws- a handful of passes could have been intercepted, he also displayed enough poise to keep his team in the game and keep his teammates believing in him during crunch time.
2. When your leading rusher is your quarterback, you have a very good chance of losing the game.
Twice now in five games Rodgers has led Green Bay in rushing yards. Both times resulted in a disappointing Green Bay loss. Cedric Benson went down against Indy with an ankle injury, and second year man Alex Green provided a couple decent plays. But time and time again Rodgers was forced out of the pocket and forced to use his legs to make something happen. The more Rodgers is forced to run with the ball, the more likely injury will be imminent. It also strikes no fear into opposing defenses when the offense biggest threat on the ground is the one who's supposed to be looking downfield to make a throw.
3. Reggie Wayne still has it.
The 12 year veteran, at a ripe 33 years of age, caught 13 balls for a career high 212 yards plus the game winning touchdown. He also consistently helped to bail out his rookie qb by finding open spots to sit down and let the nimble Luck find him for chain-moving connections. Wayne gave Charles Woodson fits all afternoon, and made a nifty catch and reach to break the plane of the goal line for the game winner.
4. The tale of two offensive lines.
Luck was sacked four times on the day. But when you consider he dropped back 55 times, a four sack game is tolerable for an o-line. Luck was given plenty of time against a feeble Green Bay pass rush, and he made the most of it when he needed to.
Rodgers, on the other hand, was hounded most of the afternoon, mainly by Cory Redding and Robert Mathis, and never really had time to find any comfort zone at all in the pocket. The clinical passing game of a year ago has seemingly dried up, and the protection up front is a major factor. Rodgers also had some responsibility in certain situations, but his line did him no favors on this day.
5. No lead is safe on the road.
Twice during the middle of the game, once just before halftime, and on Green Bay's first drive of the second half, the Packers had a chance to extend their 18 point lead. With a minute and change before the break, Rodgers and the offense had the ball at midfield with plenty of time to safely move into field goal range, and came up short.
Opening the second half, Rodgers threw a 3rd down interception to Jerraud Powers at the Packer 39 yard line. The Colts then took just 5 plays to score and make it 21-10. It was then a game once again. Had the Packers put any points on the board on either of those drives, Dom capers could have had his pass rushers pin back their ears, and get after the rookie Luck. As it turned out, an eleven point lead, rather than a 21 or 25 point advantage, forced Capers to respect the run and not send his blitzing schemes.