October 31, 2017

Recapping Packers vs. Saints - Brett Hundley's First Start

By: Calvin Skalet 

For just the sixth time since 1992 the Packers had a new quarterback under center. Brett Hundley made his first career start last Sunday in Lambeau and the Packers fell to the Saints 26-17.

The Packers got off to a promising start, forcing two interceptions in their own territory. Green Bay was spurred by their up-and-coming, rookie running back Aaron Jones who racked up 131 yards and touchdown in the game, including a big TD run on the Packers first possession. For Packer fans, there was a sense of hope going into halftime leading the Saints 14-7.

Breaking down Hundley’s debut

Hundley struggled through the air in his first start completing just 12 of 25 passes. However the young quarterback did prove to be a mobile threat out of the pocket.
Drew Brees and Brett Hundley after a 26-17 Packers Loss

Hundley ended up scoring on a 14-yard run in the second quarter to give the Packers a 14-7 lead and finished the game with 44 rushing yards on 3 attempts. Being mobile helped, but Hundley could not seem to connect with his receivers on the deep ball. The first-time starting quarterback threw for just 87 yards in the entire game.

Many fans expected the Packers to be more conservative without Aaron Rodgers under center and even for Mike McCarthy it was very conservative. The Packers ran the ball just as much as they threw the ball. Green Bay had 25 pass attempts and 24 rushing attempts in the game. For a career debut, keeping it as simple as possible is ideal. However, there’s not a ton of time for McCarthy to wait for Hundley to gel with the offensive playbook.

The nonexistent pass-game can be summed up by the last play of the game for the Packers offense when Hundley threw a ball 10 feet in front of Martellus Bennett and into the hands of Kenny Vaccaro for an interception to solidify the loss for Green Bay.

Hopefully this bye week will help this offensive staff regroup and prepare for the next couple of games. The Packers have the Lions and Bears coming up, which I am already talking myself into the Packers winning these games. Mike McCarthy said he was all in on Brett Hundley because he has “three years invested,” but it did not feel like that on Sunday.

Defensive Mishaps

The inexperience showed on Sunday both offensively and defensively. For the second time this season, the Packers defensive staff and the defensive play caller on the field were not in communication which resulted in the Packers playing a snap with only 10 players on the field. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is just beginning the role of on-field play caller because of Morgan Burnett’s continued injury absence.

The defense proved it can force turnovers in key moments after the Packers forced Drew Brees to throw two interceptions deep in the Packers territory. However, Brees still played well enough to defeat the Rodger-less Packers by throwing for 331 yards and scoring two TDs, one throwing and one rushing on a QB-sneak from the one yard line. The defense also gave up big plays that led to the Saints tandem of backs to rush for 161 yards including a rushing TD from Mark Ingram.

It was a very odd game because I think most people went into the game feeling very little hope in this Packers team. But with the 14-7 lead, it started to look like the Packers had a chance to get out of there with a victory. But a multitude of things happened that caused that feeling to change. The obvious being the limited playbook being used with a new quarterback. But the defense has to step up a little more if the Packers are going to have a shot. They played well enough to win with Aaron Rodgers, but clearly it was not enough with Brett Hundley.

October 19, 2017

Vikings Week 6 Recap: Down Goes Rodgers, Packers 2017 Hopes?

If Green Bay Packer fans didn’t have a sour taste in their mouth following last year's 24-10 defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings to open U.S. Bank Stadium, this year's week six road divisional rematch should have provided fans with enough gut-wrenching, sucker-punching fervor to make up for 2016.

The Packers had every reason to enter week six of 2017 believing they could avenge last year’s defeat - at the time, riding a substantial wave of momentum after an epic comeback road victory against the Dallas Cowboys.

Namely, last Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis would mark the first time since week one that Aaron Rodgers had his full arsenal of pass-protectors intact; Green Bay welcomed back left tackle David Bakhtiari and right guard Bryan Bulaga in hopes of keeping the two-time MVP quarterback upright against a speedy, violent Vikings pass rush.

Breaking Down The Rodgers Injury
By most measures, all was well in Packer nation — until it wasn’t. After a three-and-out on the opening possession, Green Bay stifled the Vikings offense into a punt, giving the ball back to Rodgers. On 2nd-and-9 from the GB 39 yard-line, Rodgers scrambled right as the pocket collapsed in front of him, and flipped a short pass over the outstretched hands of linebacker Eric Kendricks.

Intended receiver Packers TE Martellus Bennett dropped the pass, (which continues to be an issue for the former Super Bowl Champion) and that resulted as the lesser consequence in a sequence that ended with Aaron Rodgers curled over on the ground, grimacing in pain.

The hit, delivered by linebacker Anthony Barr, would be the last snap Rodgers took in the game and possibly his last snap of the 2017 season. After a short retreat into the convertible tent on the Green Bay sideline, Rodgers was carted off the field and into the locker room. Back-up QB Brett Hundley replaced Rodgers, leaving Packer fans in a state of disbelief, wondering the severity of what looked like a throwing-shoulder injury.

Packer Fans’ Worst Fears Become Reality

 Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is carted off the field with a broken
clavicle in Green Bay’s 23-10 loss at Minnesota Sunday

Shortly after the start of the third quarter, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports confirmed the fears of Packers nation; Aaron Rodgers was out for the game and much more with a broken clavicle. The same injury that sidelined Rodgers for seven games in 2013, but this time on the $110 million arm side. So the Aaron Rodgers-less life began for the Packers as they struggled to move the ball, protect the ball and protect backup Brett Hundley, in route to a 23-10 loss and surrendering of first place in the NFC North. 

The Vikings swarming defense, coupled with the losses of David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga and Lane Taylor, proved too much for undermanned Packers to handle. With Aaron Rodgers sidelined for a minimum of 8-10 weeks, Green Bay must now hold on for dear life just to keep the rapidly sinking ship above water; a daunting task that will placed, in large part, on the shoulders of third-year backup Brett Hundley. Hundley, a fifth round pick out of UCLA, has never started a game in the NFL, and has seen limited action since entering the league in 2015. In just over a half of play relieving the two-time NFL MVP, Hundley threw for 157 yards and a touchdown; he also turned the ball over three times via interception and was under-duress for the majority of the snaps he took.

Season Over, or Hope with Hundley?
If there are any positives to take away from the crushing defeat in Minneapolis, it may be that Brett Hundley has shown signs of being a more-than-capable backup. Late in the third quarter with Green Bay down 7-0 Hundley used his feet to stepped up in the pocket, avoid rushers and deliver a 14 yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams to tie the game. After a long Minnesota touchdown late in the fourth quarter, he connected with Jordy Nelson on an impressive and Rodgers-esque back shoulder throw for 24 yards and a first down.

So what should the Packers expect moving forward in the 2017 season with Hundley under center? Unless the team can find a way to get key offensive and defensive players healthy and back on the field, Green Bay’s league-leading playoff streak of seven could be in serious jeopardy.

A banged up offensive line and decimated secondary provide the Packers with serious issues that stem far beyond the loss of Aaron Rodgers. Up next for Green Bay is a Lambeau Field showdown with the resurgent New Orleans Saints, who are coming off an impressive, but sloppy 52-point win against a Packers NFC North-division rival, the Detroit Lions.

The impact of Rodgers’ absence is crystal clear already — the Packers went from being a six point favorite against the Saints when Rodgers was healthy, to being a six point home underdog with Hundley at QB. After week seven, Green Bay will have a much-needed bye week before returning to action Mon., Nov. 6 on ESPN’s Monday Night Football at home against the Detroit Lions. Buckle up, Packer nation — it’s going to be a tumultuous ride to week 16.