D'Amato: Packers' defense fails again

Gary D'Amato
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Green Bay's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix nearly sacks Indianapolis' Andrew Luck in the final minutes Sunday. The Colts won, 31-26.

Green Bay – When you lose to a supposedly inferior team at home and slip into third place in a four-team division you’re supposed to be leading, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

Let’s start with the fact that the Green Bay Packers were criminally unprepared to play the Indianapolis Colts and paid the price with a 31-26 loss Sunday. The special teams were beyond inept. The offense didn’t come to life until the fourth quarter, but only after dink-and-dunk more closely resembled stink-and-stunk.

Perhaps topping a long list of inadequacies, though, was the defense’s inability – again – to get a stop at the end of the game.

Last week, after Aaron Rodgers’ fourth touchdown pass gave the Packers a 32-26 lead with 3 minutes 58 seconds to go, the Atlanta Falcons drove 75 yards in 11 plays and won the game on Matt Ryan’s touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu with 31 seconds left.

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On Sunday, after Rodgers threw two fourth-quarter scoring passes to turn a blowout into a five-point game with 3:29 left, the defense couldn’t get off the field and give the offense one more chance.

The Colts converted twice on third down and the game ended with quarterback Andrew Luck taking a knee on the last three plays.

“No doubt, if we could have gotten the ball back in Aaron Rodgers’ hands, he was going to do something special with it,” said linebacker Joe Thomas. “We didn’t get the job done.”

After Letroy Guion stoned running back Frank Gore and Luck threw incomplete to stop the clock, the Packers had the Colts where they wanted them: third and 10 with 3:19 left. Plenty of time for Rodgers and the offense, which had rolled up 140 combined yards in fewer than 4 minutes in its previous two drives.

The Packers blitzed and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had Luck dead to rights, but the 6-foot-4, 240-pound quarterback shook off the safety’s high tackle attempt, set himself and threw a 20-yard dart to tight end Jack Doyle.

“That’s a play I had to make and wanted to make and I let him get away,” Clinton-Dix said. “He’s huge. He’s a strong quarterback. The way you can go in, you can’t really go in and hit him low (per NFL rules) so I took my chance high and I missed. He’s a great quarterback and I made a mistake and I’ll learn from it.”

By then, Clinton-Dix’s two first-half interceptions were long forgotten.

“Until I play next Sunday,” he said, “the only thing I’ll remember is the last play of the game, the third down.”

Still, the Packers had another chance after putting the Colts in a third-and-2 with 2:21 left. But speedy receiver T.Y. Hilton ran away from cornerback LaDarius Gunter over the middle and Luck had enough time to deliver the pass for 27 yards. And that was that.

“Great call by ‘Chud’ (offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski) on that third and two,” Luck said. “Awesome call on T.Y. Great job up front, first of all. You know they’re bringing everybody and they blocked it up and we had enough time to get it to T.Y.”

The Colts also ended the first half by driving 96 yards in 15 plays and took a 24-10 lead on Luck’s touchdown pass to Donte Moncrief with 11 seconds left. They converted on third time three times on that drive.

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“Oh, man, that hurt,” Clinton-Dix said. “We’ve got to find a way to get off the field on third down. (Defensive coordinator) Dom (Capers) is doing a great job with his calls on third down. We’ve just got to execute.”

For the game, Indianapolis was 7-for-14 on third down

“We’ve got to play better situational football,” said linebacker Julius Peppers.

The Packers have to play better football, period, if they want to sniff the playoffs. Getting whipped at Lambeau by a 3-5 team is nobody’s recipe for success.

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