INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts players might have been battling their emotions as much as the Green Bay Packers during the first half of Sunday's 30-27 victory.
Indianapolis players and coaches had gone into the matchup with the Packers with one goal in mind: bring back a win for coach Chuck Pagano, who has been hospitalized for over a week with a form of leukemia.
The task would not be an easy one. Green Bay is one of the National Football League’s best and most storied franchises. Additionally, the Packers are coming off a 15-1 regular-season record and were widely considered to be one of the contenders to represent the National Football Conference in Super Bowl XLVII next February.
Even though the Colts last week tried to play down the topic of Pagano’s illness and how it would affect preparations for Green Bay, everybody knew different. Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck admitted as much after Sunday’s game.
“I’m sure we were all lying to everybody, saying we were trying to downplay [Pagano’s illness]. We all want to [beat the Packers] for Chuck more than anything else,” Luck said after the game. “It was very special and I’m just glad to be a part of it. This was one of the greatest athletic moments I’ve been a part of.”
Interim coach and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians knew that no matter what he said during the week of practice prior to the Green Bay game, there was a pretty good chance that the Colts would come out trying to do too much. And that’s exactly what happened as Indianapolis fell behind 21-3 at the half.
“We had to settle down. I think everybody was still caught up in it. And we were shooting ourselves in the foot, cutting ourselves and bleeding. We had to stop the bleeding at halftime,” he said later. “We tried to keep [emotions] out and just play football. The game is emotional enough without adding more pressuring emotions, trying to do something that you’re not capable of doing or more than you need to do. Just do your job. The guys did it [in the second half].”
• Wayne’s big day — Wide receiver Reggie Wayne exemplified Arians’ words about putting it all together on the field and not letting emotions get in the way.
Wayne recorded a career-best 212 receiving yards as he hauled in 13 passes from Luck. It was his highest receiving total since he finished with 200 yards against Dallas on December 5, 2010.
“It was a big game. It seemed like a long week. With the bye week coming off a loss [to Jacksonville two weeks ago], all of the emotions going on with Coach Pagano … it was a lot going on,” he said after the game.
“As a team, we wanted to go out and put on a good performance. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot, got ourselves behind in the first half. [We] came in at halftime and made our corrections. After everybody kept snapping on each other [in the locker room at halftime], we were able to put a second half together and come out with a big win.”
Wayne’s long relationship with Pagano is well documented. If he needed some extra motivation for the Packers game, he didn’t have to look very far.
“It was emotional for everybody. Everybody wanted to get this game done. We came in at halftime behind and we felt like we came out flat and didn’t do the things we said we were going to do.
“Coach Arians said [that] we’re not going to do anything different [in the second half],” he said. “We’re still going to do the things we practiced. We actually challenged each other. We said this is not Colts football. This is not we said we were going to do. Let’s turn this game around. Let’s do it for Chuck.”
• Wayne on Luck — It doesn’t take much prodding to get the veteran Colts receiver to talk about the team’s rookie quarterback.
“I really believe that we if were in a simple offense, he would be doing wonders. But [the coaching staff] is throwing so much at him. He’s taking it all in, taking it in stride. He knows what’s going on around him. He’s admitting his mistakes and he’s taking on all of these challenges that they’re giving him,” Wayne said.
“You want to be there for him. You want to back him up and you want to make him look good no matter where he throws the ball. You want to give your body up and go get it. He’s going to be special. He really is.”
• Injury list — Defensive tackle Fili Moala left the game in the first quarter with a sprained left knee and did not return. Nose tackle Martin Tevaseu also incurred a sprained left knee, and outside linebacker Robert Mathis also suffered a left knee injury.
All three did not return. Updates on their availability for next week’s game with the New York Jets are expected today or Wednesday.