This week brings a bit of a change to my role at Pack to the Future. Instead of trying to piece together various components of the game in the form of the Post Game Play Action, I’ll be focusing one aspect of the game each week to discuss and how I think it will impact the team moving forward.
For this week, I’ll be diving into Brett Hundley’s improvement and what it means moving forward following his leading the Packers to a 23-16 victory over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
On the heels of one of the most depressing quarterback performances in green and gold in recent memory, where Hundley was firing passes short of the line of scrimmage as if it were 1920, he was finally let loose this week to play some offense. While the stat line doesn’t jump off the page, completing 18 passes for a meager 212 yards, it looks like Hundley has started to do what he needs to to keep this team in games. The two plays that best illustrate this were the touchdown to Davante Adams, and the deep sideline ball also to Adams. On the touchdown, in the latter half of the fourth quarter, Hundley took the snap from the 19 yard line, rolled out right, directed Adams with his left hand and threw a dart to his back shoulder right over the pylon. It’s that characteristic roll out, back shoulder throw that defines how Rodgers has operated with Nelson in the red zone for so long.
Were Hundley wearing 12 you could almost have convinced yourself as he was rolling out and, with his left arm while avoiding the rush, pointing to Adams where he wanted him to go, that you were watching the Packers offense with Rodgers back at the helm on that play. One of my biggest criticisms of Hundley thus far has been that he gets a little deer-in-the-headlights when faced with a pass rush, however on this play he showed that he does have the ability to deal with it expertly and execute a great play.
The other play that had me most excited, also to Davante, was in the 4th quarter, Packers on their own 34 yard line with 2:12 on the clock, up one score facing 3rd & 10. Get a first down in that situation and it’s game over as the Bears only have one timeout remaining. These are the moments where maybe historically we see McCarthy call a little pitch to the running back, grind a few seconds, try and get into the two minute warning and rely on the defense to make a stop. None of that on this play however. Hundley took a 3 step drop, danced on his toes for a second, and then lofted a beautiful bomb of a pass that travelled 50 yards down field to the sideline directly into the waiting hand (yes, this was a one handed catch) of Davante Adams, who was tightly covered by Bears cornerback Fuller whom the Packers attempted to pick on all night.
After two straight weeks of the offense being hamstrung by horrendously inept and overly conservative game planning and play calling by McCarthy, mixed with some missed throws and reads by Hundley, this play, more than the touchdown, fills me with hope going forward. In a situation where the game needed Hundley to be great, he made what I would argue is the best throw of his entire career, including the preseason games. This play showed a confidence we’ve not seen from Hundley thus far, which may have been the reason the play calling had been so conservative. I feel like now that Hundley has not only a win under his belt, but a few standout plays, McCarthy may have a little more faith in his ability to make the crunch plays when they count and open up this offense a little.
There are things he needs to still work on. towards the end of the first quarter the offense went out on 4th down to try and hard count the Bears defense into a penalty. Every man, woman, child, service animal, and microbe in Soldier Field knew this is what they were trying to do. Then, inexplicably, as the play clock ran down Hundley used a timeout rather than just punting from 5 yards further back as a result of a delay of game. Errors like that from a player who is essentially a rookie when it comes to being on the field hopefully only happen once. Ideally, Hundley will take that as a learning moment going forward and pay a little more attention to the mental side of the game that helps win games between plays.
All in all, moving on from this week, I feel moderately more hopeful about Hundley than before. I wasn’t sure this team could beat the Browns this time last week. With the improvement we’ve seen from Hundley this week though, I think it’s possible we pick up 2, maybe even 3 wins over the rest of the season. Given the injury situation across the entire team not just the quarterback position, I don’t think that’s a terrible outcome.