Colts rally past Packers
Packers can't hold on to 18-point halftime lead
The Indianapolis Colts wanted to send a message to ailing coach Chuck Pagano, and they delivered one that will never be forgotten.
Using a 27-point second half, the Colts came from 18 points down to beat the Green Bay Packers 30-27 on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Trailing 27-22, Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck engineered an 80-yard drive in the final 4:30 to win the game. He hit Reggie Wayne -- who had five catches on the drive -- with a 4-yard touchdown pass for the win. Wayne was hit by two defenders, but fought to extend the ball for the touchdown with 35 seconds left. Donald Brown ran for a two-point conversion.
"This is for Chuck," Wayne said.
The Packers' Mason Crosby missed a 51-yard field goal with three seconds left that could have sent the game to overtime.
"A lot of tears, a lot of joy, a lot of pride," Colts interim coach Bruce Arians said of the locker room afterward. "A band of brothers just came together. This team overcame something no one gave them a shot to do."
Colts owner Jim Irsay left afterward to present the game ball to Pagano at the IU Health Simon Cancer Center, where Pagano is being treated for acute promyelocytic leukemia. Pagano was admitted to the hospital on Sept. 26 and news of his illness was shared with the players last Monday.
"It did mean a lot, just with the whole deal, with as far as how the week has been going," Wayne said. "I talked to Coach Pagano and he wanted us to win so bad."
Wayne, who was at the University of Miami when Pagano was an assistant coach, was serenaded with chants of "Reg-gie! Reg-gie!" as he left the field after the game. He wore orange gloves in support of Pagano's battle with leukemia. Wayne caught 13 passes for 212 yards.
"I wasn't sure how it would go with being fined," Wayne said. "If they fine me, they fine me. I feel like that'd be a terrible thing to do with everything going on. But I'd take their fine and go do it for Chuck."
Luck completed 31 of 55 passes for a career-high 362 yards with two touchdowns. Brown rushed for 84 yards.
Luck took a number of hits in the game, but gave one of his finest performances on the final drive, not only hitting Wayne but running for a first down on third-and-7 to set up the touchdown.
Adam Vinatieri's 28-yard field goal with 8:04 left gave the Colts their first lead, 22-21. Green Bay regained the lead 27-22, on a two-play drive with 4:30 left, but the Colts staged the final drive to take the win.
Rodgers finished 21 of 33 for 243 yards with three touchdowns. The Packers fell to 2-3 while the Colts improved to 2-2.
"It's a disappointing loss, especially coming off a win," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. "We're not quite where we need to be."
The Packers were cruising at halftime, but the game changed drastically in the second half.
Green Bay built a 14-0 lead, with John Kuhn rushing for a 2-yard score, then Rodgers hitting James Jones for a 6-yard scoring touchdown on the second scoring drive.
A spectacular one-handed catch by Wayne against Packers defensive back Charles Woodson put Indianapolis at the Packers 6 in the second quarter. But the Colts were forced to settle for an Adam Vinatieri field goal to make it 14-3.
Rodgers answered with a three-play, 66-yard drive, capped by a 31-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb for a 21-3 lead.
Luck mounted a 2-minute drive before half and drove the Colts to the Packers 26, but a sack ended the drive and Vinatieri missed a 53-yarder.
Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers intercepted a pass from Rodgers early in the third quarter, and Luck capitalized with a 39-yard scoring drive, hitting Dwayne Allen with an 8-yard score to cut it to 21-10. Vinatieri hit a 50-yard field goal on the Colts' next possession to close the Colts within 21-13.
After Crosby missed a 52-yard field goal, the Colts drove again. Helped by a questionable pass interference call on Packers cornerback Sam Shields, Luck finished the 58-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to make it 21-19 with 18 seconds left in the third. A two-point conversion pass failed.
Notes: Colts rush end Dwight Freeney played for the first time since suffering a severely sprained ankle against the Bears in Week 1. ... Packers running back Cedric Benson, tight end Jermichael Finley and nose tackle B.J. Raji left the game with injuries. ... Luck became the first Colts quarterback to throw a touchdown pass in his first four games since Bert Jones in 1973. ... A significant number of Packers fans' chants of "Go Pack Go" could be heard at various times. It was only the fifth meeting between the Colts and Packers in the last 21 years.