INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Packers quarterback Graham Harrell pulled out the victory Friday night.
Colts backup Curtis Painter got something much more important — respect.
Harrell led Green Bay to a staggering 11 points in the final 35 seconds, rallying the Super Bowl champions for a 24-21 win that sent Indianapolis to its ninth straight preseason loss.
“I love it, you know what I mean, especially when you’re the guy going in late to know that coach isn’t just going to throw in the towel but lets you open up and throw it,” Harrell said. “It makes it a lot of fun and it felt good.”
The former Texas Tech quarterback will certainly take it after he thought he threw the game away with a late interception.
That miscue set up Indy’s only second-half score, a 3-yard TD pass from Dan Orlovsky to David Gilreath that made it 21-13 with 3:52 left.
With some good fortune and timely plays, Harrell made amends.
He took advantage of two Colts’ defensive penalties, and on fourth-and-10 from the Colts 11, scrambled around long enough to find rookie tight end Ryan Taylor for the TD pass. Harrell connected with Taylor again on the 2-point conversion and after Green Bay recovered the onside kick, then moved the Packers (2-1) into position for Mason Crosby’s 50-yard field goal as time expired.
“I understand the mindset of kicking the extra point and going home a little healthier, but that’s a terrible message to send to your team,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think just the way our team reacted on the sideline tells you about what we came here to do — we came here to win games.”
Still, Painter had his best night of the preseason and just in time to stay in the battle to back up Peyton Manning.
Two days after Indianapolis brought Kerry Collins out of retirement, Painter was 11 of 21 for 171 yards with two TDs.
He rebounded from last week’s dismal performance in which he managed only one first down and couldn’t get the Colts past their own 29 against Washington. Five-time Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne threw his support squarely behind Painter after the signing and both lived up to their end of the bargain.
Wayne caught six passes for 105 yards including the 57-yard TD pass that gave Painter a needed confidence boost.
“He took over the huddle. He made some of his own decision making, and that’s good. That’s what you want to see in a quarterback,” Wayne said. “You kind of want to go out there and make plays for him, to give him that confidence. He did a good job.”
No, Painter wasn’t perfect. He needed almost 18 minutes to find his groove, was sacked twice and lost a fumble.
But it was a drastic improvement and impressive enough to get Manning to smile just before halftime.
Things didn’t start well, though.
Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers took the Packers 81 yards on their second series, throwing an 18-yard TD pass to Jermichael Finley right over the arms of linebacker Pat Angerer. Green Bay went 61 yards on its next series, settling for Crosby’s 26-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
Then Painter struck.
He read Green Bay’s blown coverage perfectly down the left side of the field, then threw the strike to Wayne, who jogged the final 30 yards.
“That’s kind of what you go for, is to have confidence from the guys around you, the coaching staff, other players,” Painter said. “I don’t have a whole lot of control over any of those decisions. Hopefully, I’ll just continue to put myself in position to help the team.”
On the next series, Painter ran the 2-minute drill to perfection, threading a nifty 36-yard pass to Pierre Garcon down the right side. Painter followed that play with a gentle 7-yard lob to the back corner that Chris Brooks hauled to give Indy a 14-10 halftime lead.
Indy thought it had finally broken the losing streak after the late TD, but Harrell responded with the closing flurry to win it.
“It was great,” Rodgers said. “Graham’s a good buddy, and he had a really good camp. I know he’s bummed about the interception, but he came right back, made some big plays, the fourth down for the touchdown. Mike called the onside kick, he made a couple of plays and we won the game.”
Notes: Green Bay’s starters played one half, while the Colts pulled their starters early in the third quarter. ... Colts Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis left in the first quarter with a hamstring injury. ... The Packers lost receiver Jordy Nelson ( bruised knee) and Finley (sprained ankle) in the first half. ... Collins was dressed in his familiar No. 5 jersey. Rookie punter Travis Baltz, who was wearing No. 5, switched to No. 2. ... Receivers Greg Jennings and Randall Cobb were among 11 Packers to sit out. Both have bruised knees. ... In addition to playing without Manning, the Colts were missing defensive captain Gary Brackett, Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea and receivers Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez.