GREEN BAY — Mike McCarthy believes quarterback Brett Hundley is not the Green Bay Packers issue right now. And the head coach is right. A sieve-like defense, significant injury concerns on both sides of the ball and a special teams unit that has offered little to the equation are all major concerns for a squad that fell to .500 on Monday night with a 30-17 loss to the Detroit Lions.
And yet, as it has for the past 25 years in Green Bay, the play of the quarterback is the focus and will largely determine whether the team is successful. Right now, with Hundley under center, it hasn’t been good enough. And he knows it.
“I didn’t play well enough to win,” Hundley said. “That’s my only concern, and that’s my only goal.”
In his second career start in place of an injured Aaron Rodgers, who watched from the sideline, Hundley was better than he was in his first game against the New Orleans Saints. After completing fewer than 50 percent of passes and not even throwing for 100 yards two weeks ago, Hundley threw for 245 yards and ran for a touchdown. But much of his success came late with the Lions largely willing to let him dink and dunk his way down the field. In the first half, with Detroit ratcheting up the pressure and forcing him into difficult throws, he completed a large number of passes — 13 — for minimal yardage — 80 — and only a last-second field goal kept the Packers from being shut out.
“Everybody wants to score five touchdowns, have a perfect quarterback rating and win,” Hundley said. “This game was a step in the right direction. Think I did some good things. Obviously, it wasn’t enough of them.”
It wasn’t and it certainly wasn’t enough to overcome all the other problems facing Green Bay, the ones that Rodgers has so often been able to cancel out. No one really needed a reminder how great the two-time NFL MVP was, but we’re certainly getting one. Things he made look so easy — firing a quick strike to Jordy Nelson with the blitz coming or putting a perfect deep ball right in the hands of Davante Adams — are no longer sure things. Hundley had the chance to make both of those plays Monday and couldn’t, though, to be fair, he didn’t necessarily get the help he needed from those around him.
“I believe in Brett and that’s not just a press conference statement,” McCarthy said afterward. “He’s got what it takes. He has it in his body, has it in his mind and he definitely has the heart.”
Still, when your defense gives up 417 yards, allows the opposing quarterback — in this case Matthew Stafford — to complete 78.8 percent of his passes and fails to get any pressure all night, the lack of success by your offense will be magnified. That’s certainly not to give the defense a pass. Dom Capers’ unit was horrendous against the Lions’ passing game, especially on third down, where Detroit converted 62 percent of the time. Heck, coach Jim Caldwell’s club didn’t punt in a game for the first time since 1971.
“It’s embarrassing,” cornerback Davon House said. “It’s Monday Night [Football]. It was time to show out tonight. It wasn’t the case.”
Fellow cornerback Damarious Randall was more blunt, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Michael Cohen.
“We just the [crapped] the bed. Point blank,” Randall said as relayed by Cohen in a series of tweets. “It was a lack of coverage, a lack of pass rush, a lack of everything. They just flat out played better tonight. Period.”
The special teams wasn’t much better. A promising opening drive — 15 plays, 58 yards — resulted in no points after a low snap led to a subpar hold and a low kick from Mason Crosby, which got blocked. And only once — after a missed field goal by Detroit — did the Packers start with better field position than their own 30-yard line.
But struggles on defense, special teams and injuries aren’t new for Green Bay. They’ve all existed during Rodgers’ tenure as starter and yet the team still managed to make the playoffs every year since 2009, and were averaging 27.4 points per game during a 4-1 start to this year. Without him, the Packers are 0-3 and averaging 14.6 points per game.
All of this is to say that while, yes, Hundley is not the problem for Green Bay, he also hasn’t been the solution. And unless he turns into that, the Packers chances to still be in playoff contention when Rodgers is potentially healthy enough to return late in the year aren’t realistic.