Green Bay Packers’ offense to meet tough match in Indianapolis Colts’ defense
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts embrace these daunting midseason tests.
First, they tried to contain reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. Then they contended with 2019 rushing champion Derrick Henry. On Sunday, the Colts face a third consecutive challenge — slowing down two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ potent offense.
Ace this one, and Indy will be well on its way to claiming the title of NFL’s stingiest defense.
“You can tell everybody’s on the same page and they fly around. It’s one of the faster units we’ll have played this year,” Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur said. “They’re physical, they know how to attack the ball. And it’s hard to get big plays on them. So we’re going to have to do a great job.”
At the moment, the Colts (6-3) sit at the top of the class.
They’re No. 1 in overall defense, No. 2 against the pass, No. 3 against the run, No. 4 in scoring defense and No. 6 in turnover differential. They’re tied for second in interceptions with 11, have scored three touchdowns and had two safeties. And for the first time in years, it’s the defense that has helped Indy grab a share of the AFC South lead.
But Colts coach Frank Reich, a longtime NFL quarterback, knows just how difficult Rodgers can be on opposing defenses.
“He can make every throw from every arm angle and he gets it out faster than anybody I’ve ever seen,” Reich said. “He can give that little flick of the wrist to get that thing out. His feet don’t have to be right, because of his arm strength he can put the ball anywhere he wants. Then he can extend plays.”
While Rodgers remains the leader of the Packers (7-2), LaFleur has tried to alleviate some of the burden on his quarterback. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams have emerged as a dynamic duo out of the backfield, and Davante Adams is one of the league’s top receivers.
Together, they have pushed Green Bay to the top of the NFC North and the Packers are the first team in NFL history to average 30 or more points per game while committing five or fewer turnovers through nine games.
The question is whether the Packers run defense will improve after allowing 337 yards rushing and two 100-yard runners over the past three games.
Rodgers will poke and prod the Colts defense, trying to find areas he can exploit. Indy expects nothing less and intends to stand up to the best.
“I know he’s looking for weakness,” said defensive end Justin Houston, the 2014 NFL sacks champ. “He’s going to try to attack you, make sure you’re playing sound football, try to get the defensive line to jump offside. He’s known for his hard counts and when you have that much experience, it’s like having a coach on the field. We’ll have our hands full.”
Adams returned to practice Friday and is expected to play Sunday despite dealing with an ankle injury this week.
The injury had prevented Adams from practicing Thursday.
“I think he’s made good progress,” LaFleur said Friday. “He should be good to go.”
Adams hurt his ankle Sunday in a 24-20 victory over Jacksonville. The injury caused him to leave the game temporarily, but he returned to catch the winning touchdown pass with just over nine minutes remaining.
“Anytime where I feel like I can come back into a game like that, typically speaking my mindset going into the next week is that I’ll be able to roll,” Adams said Wednesday during his weekly media availability. “Like I said, we’re doing all the things right, right now to make sure I’m as pain free and not limited come Sunday, and that’s where we are.”
Adams sat out victories over New Orleans and Atlanta earlier this season with a hamstring injury, though he still has nine touchdown catches to tie Minnesota’s Adam Thielen, Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill and Seattle’s DK Metcalf for the NFL lead. Adams has 61 overall catches for 741 yards for the Packers (7-2).
“An ankle is a little bit different than a hammy in the sense that you kind of tough through it depending on how you’re feeling, but a hamstring is one of those ones where you can either go or you can’t,” Adams said. “That’s the difference there.”
Even with Adams on the field, the Packers’ receiving corps might not return to full strength against the Colts (6-3). The Packers activated Allen Lazard from injured reserve this week, but his status for Sunday’s game remains uncertain. Lazard has missed six games with a core injury and is listed as questionable.
Green Bay is expected to have starting cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Kevin King available after both sat out the Jaguars game. Both were full participants in Friday’s practice. King has missed five games with a quadriceps injury. Alexander has been dealing with a concussion and a hand issue.
Running back/kick returner Tyler Ervin (wrist/ribs) has been ruled out, and defensive lineman Montravius Adams (toe) is doubtful. Cornerback Ka’dar Hollman (quadriceps), safety Will Redmond (shoulder) and receivers Darrius Shepherd (shoulder) and Equanimeous St. Brown (knee) are questionable.