FOXBORO, Mass. — Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we take stock of an offensively sloppy but memorable Week 5 in the NFL….
• There was a sorrowful sentiment expressed last week, shortly after Chuck Pagano’s shocking leukemia diagnosis in Indianapolis, that perhaps the Colts’ rookie coach hadn’t had enough time to truly leave his imprint on his young team. Three games isn’t really a body of work, and such a cameo doesn’t allow for much time to mold and shape a club into one’s own image. It was easy to wonder what would become of the Colts with Pagano’s steadying presence taken away so quickly?
Those worries, however, were quickly proven unfounded. These Colts, as it turns out, already have plenty of Pagano’s fight and resiliency, a fact we saw borne out in dramatic fashion Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium. Down 21-3 at the half to the powerful Packers, the Colts refused to give up on the game and call it a losing day, mounting a remarkable second-half comeback to upset Green Bay 30-27 and earn an emotional and inspiring victory for their ailing coach.
What a storybook win for a Colts team that had little right to dream, trailing by 18 points at the half and looking out-classed by Aaron Rodgers and a Packers offense that seemed to be coming fully to life for the first time all season. But Indy would not go away, and the heroes were everywhere for the 2-2 Colts, who just matched their win total for all of 2011:
— Quarterback Andrew Luck had a monster game he’ll remember the rest of his life, completing 31 of 55 for 362 yards and a pair of touchdowns, leading the Colts to 27 points in the final two quarters. The 2012 overall No. 1 pick also ran six times for 24 yards and a touchdown, with the highlight being his silky-smooth execution of the game-winning 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 4-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne with 35 seconds remaining.
— Wayne, a Colt since 2001, was every bit as magical as Luck, grabbing a whopping 13 passes for 212 yards, including that game-winner. Wayne’s one-handed grab of a 30-yard pass in the first half was strictly highlight-film material, and his yardage total was the highest by a Colts receiver since Raymond Berry in 1957.
— The Colts defense was borderline dominant in the second half, sacking Rodgers five times and limiting Green Bay to just six points in the final two quarters after three first-half touchdown drives. The Packers had just 18 first downs in the game, and punted seven times.
— Lastly, there was interim head coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who kept his team focused, even after it dug itself a huge first-half hole against a quality opponent. Arians has promised to keep the light on in Pagano’s office as a sign of continuity in the organization, but in truth, having the Colts ready to make such a emphatic on-field statement against Green Bay was the best tribute he and his players could have made to honor Pagano.
Pagano’s fight has really just begun. But the Colts made sure on Sunday to let the rest of the NFL know that they are Pagano’s team, and his impact on them has not disappeared or lessened, even in his regrettable absence. Presenting him with the game ball from the win over the Packers will complete an unforgettable chapter in Colts history.
• Well that was predictable. The inevitable scenario we all saw coming in Washington finally arrived in Week 5: The sight of Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III being knocked out of the game with a concussion, courtesy of a clean but violent hit delivered by Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.
Griffin simply won’t last physically if he continues to run the ball as often as he has in the season’s first month or so, exposing himself to contact in a manner that seems to invite punishment. On the third-quarter play he was hurt on against Atlanta, Griffin could have gotten out of bounds and likely avoided the hit, but he instead started to slide somewhat belatedly on the field of play, and wound up catching Weatherspoon’s left shoulder in the area of his jaw. Griffin reportedly needed some stitches to close a cut on his face, and he looked dazed after the blow, with Mike Shanahan saying afterward that Griffin didn’t know the score or what quarter the game was in when asked immediately after the hit.
Griffin status for next week’s home game against Minnesota won’t be known until later, but the Redskins (2-3) clearly need him healthy to be competitive in the NFC East. Washington lost 24-17 to the Falcons (5-0) in part because rookie backup quarterback Kirk Cousins threw two ugly interceptions in the fourth quarter after replacing Griffin and briefly sparking the Redskins to a lead with a 77-yard scoring bomb to Santana Moss.