Even after an extra week of trying to “get it right,” for three quarters all Packer fans could surmise is that instead of seeing improvement in the quarterback play, for the third straight week Brett Hundley appeared to continue to devolve. Completing 16 of 25 passes sounds OK, but just 97 yards passing does not. In the fourth quarter the Packers mixed-in a little no huddle offense, and Hundley completed 10 of 13 for 148 yards which eventually led to two touchdowns, which at least made for a more “respectable” 30-17 loss to the Detroit Lions, who were powered by Matthew Stafford’s passing clinic, the kind that you see real quarterbacks on their game do.
Hundley finished 26 of 38 passing for 245 yards and no interceptions, but no touchdown passes either. The final numbers may look like an improvement, except on the scoreboard. Last time the Packers lost by 9; this time it was by thirteen and it should have been a whole lot worse as the Lions left at least 11 points on the field and the Packers were fortunate to even score their two late touchdowns. A closer look at Hundley’s final numbers show that their first touchdown drive was powered by Randall Cobb’s catch-and-run play, racing 40 yards through arm tackles after a short pass over the middle. Without that play, the way Hundley was running the offense we might have seen a third failed fourth down play. After the Lions took a 30-10 lead with 1:42 left in the game, McCarthy brought out the second and third-string receivers (Williams, Kendricks and Allison), and the Lions basically laid back, and it still took an unnecessary-to-call pass interference penalty on the last play to give the Packers one last crack at a touchdown from the Lions one-yard line, which they managed to do even though it had no other point but to make Hundley feel better.
Take away Cobb’s heroics and the final pointless drive, Hundley threw for 136 yards on 32 pass attempts and three measly points of offense. That is not the improvement we were led to “expect” two weeks ago, although frankly I wasn’t expecting any “improvement,” just more of the same. Of course, the smart guys and the pundits will misconstrue the fourth quarter, just like people here in Seattle always whine after a too late burst of offense why that “stupid” offensive coordinator didn’t do this or that earlier in the game (usually having to do with the no-huddle offense), but there are reasons for not doing those things the entire game, like becoming predictable, or like what Chip Kelly tried to do in Philadelphia, when if that “quick strike” offensive scheme doesn’t work, you end-up wearing out your own defense.
What we learned from this game is the same thing we learned before. After more than two years in the “system,” Hundley simply has not learned it, and likely cannot. He can’t process at the line, he plays poorly under pressure, and he has poor accuracy throwing the ball further than five yards past the line of scrimmage, among other things. His apologists say that McCarthy must tailor the offense to suit Hundley, but he has not even shown the kind of game-breaking ability that Russell Wilson has often demonstrated even with a bad offensive line, or even as Colin Kaepernick showed almost immediately in leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl (not that I’m suggesting anything here, just stating the facts).
Coming up, the Packers will play the Bears, Ravens, Steelers, Buccaneers and the Browns. With Rodgers, the Packers almost certainly would have won at least 4 of 5; with Hundley, all of these games will be an adventure. This next game against the Bears, with their own quarterback of uncertain quality, may be the point in which it will be clear that McCarthy should never have allowed himself to be boxed-in by politics; it should always have been to allow Hundley some playing time to evaluate his progress, and if need be to play Joe Callahan in spots to see what he can do. But McCarthy has foolishly painted himself into a corner with his unquestioning support of Hundley, as if Hundley’s “confidence” will melt like a snowflake in the desert if he is benched. But what about the team’s confidence in Hundley? Or is the team just taking a paycheck for a lost season—particularly if the team comes out of this stretch with one or fewer victories— while awaiting the return of Rodgers?