GREEN BAY — The return on the three years the Green Bay Packers have invested in Brett Hundley has been three losses without Aaron Rodgers.
But Packers coach Mike McCarthy, so adamant in his public support of his backup quarterback in the wake of Rodgers’ fractured right collarbone, wasn’t backing down after Monday night’s 30-17 loss to the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. He expressed his faith in Hundley immediately after Rodgers’ Oct. 15 injury, and he reaffirmed it despite the Packers’ third consecutive loss.
“Brett Hundley played better today. I have great faith in Brett Hundley,” McCarthy said after Hundley completed 26 of 38 passes for 245 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions for a passer rating of 86.0. “Brett Hundley is not our issue right now.”
Later, McCarthy added, “I believe in Brett, and that’s not just a press-conference statement. He’s got what it takes. He has it in his body, he has it in his mind and he definitely has the heart.”
While McCarthy insisted he believes in Hundley, the Packers’ offensive game plan again appeared to be predicated on a short, quick passing game to avoid risky plays, with Hundley on the move if the initial reads in his progression weren’t open.
That was the outside criticism of McCarthy’s play-calling in Hundley’s first NFL start, a pre-bye Oct. 22 loss to New Orleans, as well. But both McCarthy and Hundley said the approach Monday night had more to do with the Lions’ defensive approach than any conservatism in the Packers’ game plan.
“I felt really comfortable tonight, to be completely honest. Obviously, I didn’t play well enough to win. That’s my only concern and my only goal,” Hundley said.
“We called shots (downfield). It was great called game (by McCarthy). But the way (the Lions) played their defense, they weren’t giving up shots. They were giving up the underneath stuff. If they’re giving it up, you have to take it. And then you hit one, like we did with Cobb, and then you take your shots when they come up.”
Based on that line of thinking, only a handful of shots — including one that was just out of the reach of Davante Adams and another on which Jordy Nelson wanted a pass-interference flag — came up. According to ESPN Stats & Information, 23 of Hundley’s 38 attempts were thrown within 5 yards of the line scrimmage. In fact, 13 of those 38 attempts were thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage. On those 13 passes, eight went for zero or negative yards.
“(When it comes to) evaluation, it’s very fair and professional to put all the variables in play there,” McCarthy replied when asked whether the short passes were part of the game plan or based on decisions Hundley made with the ball. “I mean, what were the coverages on these plays? What was the play design? I get where you’re going.”
At the moment, though, it appears Hundley isn't going anywhere. McCarthy made it very clear that he isn’t planning any changes at quarterback — be it moving No. 3 quarterback Joe Callahan into the starting lineup or turning to an out-of-work veteran — and Hundley said he felt there were some moments to build on going forward.
“Everybody wants to score five touchdowns and have a perfect quarterback rating and win,” Hundley said. “This game was a step in the right direction. I think I did some good things. Obviously, it wasn’t enough. But the first start (against the Saints) for sure wasn’t.
“(This game) wasn’t the breakout game everybody wants, but in this game you have to understand there’s ups and downs in everything. You can’t be perfect all the time. I felt comfortable today. There were some good things done. We’ve just got to make those big plays and keep it going from there.”