Colts start fast, finish strong enough in upset of Packers

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GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 06: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts throws a pass in the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on November 6, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Here is what caught our eye in the Indianapolis Colts’ 31-26 upset of the Green Bay Packers Sunday at Lambeau Field. Besides the upset of the Packers at Lambeau field on the heels of arguably their worst game of the season, a 30-14 home loss to Kansas City, that is:

First 5 minutes, last 5 minutes: Chuck Pagano preached and preached. Win the first 5 minutes of the game. Win the final 5 minutes of the game. Done and done.

The first 5 minutes began with Jordan Todman’s 99-yard touchdown on the game’s opening kickoff. The final 5 minutes actually were the final 3 minutes, 29 seconds. After the Packers sliced what once was a 31-13 deficit to 31-26 on Aaron Rodgers’ 3-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb, everything fell on Andrew Luck and the offense to seal the deal.

With the sellout crowd at Lambeau Field sensing a dramatic comeback and Colts fans having flashbacks to Indy blowing a late 14-point lead in an overtime loss at Houston, Luck delivered. On third-and-10, he shook off the sack attempt of a blitzing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and delivered a 20-yard completion to Jack Doyle. On third-and-2 at the 2-minute warning, he stood in the pocket and found T.Y. Hilton with a clinching 27-yarder.

All that was left was for Luck to take three knees and deliver the Colts’ first win at Lambeau Field since 1988.

It was a herky-jerky game for the offense, but again, it made enough plays. It finished with 355 total yards as Luck passed for 281 yards with one touchdown and two early interceptions. Frank Gore rushed 19 times for 60 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Luck made full use of his weapons, hooking up with nine different receivers and converting 7-of-14 third-down situations. Hilton bounced back from his one-catch game against Kansas City with six catches for 82 yards, both team highs. Doyle had five catches for 61 yards and Donte Moncrief three for 55.

Speaking of the first-5, last-5 sermon, let’s not forget the final 5-plus minutes of the second quarter. Luck directed a mammoth 15-play, 96-yard drive. It included three third-down conversions – Luck’s 13-yard completion to Moncrief, a 7-yard run by Robert Turbin, Luck’s 7-yard run – and ended with Luck’s 8-yard TD to Moncrief. The Colts led 24-10 at the half.

The offense also mounted 71- and 62-yard touchdown drives.

“We needed this win,’’ Luck said. “We needed it for ourselves, in a bad way.’’

Solid D, until . . . Green Bay’s frantic closing kick will skew the otherwise yeoman’s job done by coordinator Ted Monachino’s defense. Yes, it gave up 405 total yards – that’s an average day at the office, by the way – including 297 yards and three TDs to Rodgers. Two of the TD passes came during a 4-minute, 11-second span late in the fourth quarter, and had the overworked Colts on their heels.

However, let’s give props where they’re due.

For much of the game, a group that lacks playmakers made more than enough to frustrate Rodgers. Green Bay converted just 4-of-12 third-down situations and the pass rush did enough to get Rodgers off his spot and occasionally get him on the ground. It sacked him three times and forced several errant throw. The secondary, with nickel corner Darius Butler playing safety, generally offered tight coverage until late. Rodgers missed some early throws that could have been gashers, but the end result is all that matters. Rodgers finished 26-of-43 for 297 yards with the three TDs and one interception.

A diving Butler came up with the interception. The sacks were spread among Erik Walden, who pushed his season total to a career-high seven, David Perry and Lavar Edwards.

Big returns: Todman offered an unexpected boost on kickoffs. Right out of the gate, in fact.

The special-teams standout returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, then returned one later in the quarter 61 yards to the Green Bay 45-yard line. The latter set up Adam Vinatieri’s 28-yard field goal that pushed the Colts to a 17-10 lead.

Prior to Sunday, Todman had averaged 25.7 yards on 74 kickoff returns. His longest: 59 yards.

Todman’s kickoff return for a TD was the Colts’ first since Deji Karim’s 101-yarder Dec. 30, 2012 against the Houston Texans. He received a huge lead block from rookie Josh Ferguson, cut to the right sideline and outran the pursuit.

Hello bye: The Colts head into their bye with renewed optimism. That’s what a successful business trip to Lambeau Field will do for an organization’s fragile psyche. The team will practice early in the week then enjoy an extended weekend before returning to action Nov. 20 against the Tennessee Titans in Lucas Oil Stadium. That’s the game the franchise will recognize the 10th anniversary of its Super Bowl XLI win over the Chicago Bears.

The Colts can use the time off to figure out how to build on the upset of the Packers. It left them with a 4-5 record and, once again, very much in the hunt for the AFC South title. Houston sits atop the division at 5-3 followed by the Colts and Tennessee. The Titans fell to 4-5 with a 43-35 loss at San Diego.

Medical update: Cornerback Vontae Davis temporarily left the game late in the fourth quarter with an apparent injury to his left hand. His status for the game was uncertain much of the week after he sustained a concussion last Sunday against Kansas City.

Davis suffered the injury on his big hit against Packers running back/wideout Ty Montgomery. Davis was penalized for unnecessary roughness on the play.

Davis returned on the next Green Bay possession.

This and that: Adam Vinatieri extended his NFL record to 44 consecutive made field goals with a 28-yarder in the first quarter. It was his first made field goal at Lambeau Field and gave him a field goal in 41 different stadiums. . . . The 14 first-quarter points and 24 in the first half were the most since the Colts scored 14 in the opening quarter and 27 in the first half at Houston Oct. 9, 2014. . . . Hilton pushed his career yardage total to 5,204 and into the No. 7 slot in team history ahead of John Mackey (5,126). . . . Gore joined Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith, Curtis Martin and LaDainian Tomlinson as the only players in NFL history with at least 12,500 rushing yards and 400 receptions.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51