Now that the Packers are officially and mathematically average, with a 5-5 record attained after their humiliating 23-0 home loss to the Baltimore Ravens – while Twitter calls for Joe Callahan and the more optimistic Green Bay fans strive for silver linings – it’s worth issuing the following demonstrably true update: Brett Hundley is not a good quarterback, but that shouldn’t distract from the fact that, without Aaron Rodgers, this is currently a mediocre team that plays boring football and also still gets hurt a lot.
OK, with that out of the way, let’s grimace, put our hands over our face, peek through our fingers and take a look back at the sports massacre suffered on Sunday at Lambeau Field, Green Bay’s third straight home loss and its first time being shutout since 2006. There really isn’t much new to say here; the Packers have lost four of their five games since Rodgers broke his collarbone, and it becomes more clear every week how much of their underlying problems the two-time MVP covered up.
Green Bay committed five turnovers and took six sacks, the first time that had happened in a game since 1990, when a guy named Anthony Delwig was their starting quarterback. Hundley threw three interceptions, including an absolute killer in the end zone on the game’s opening drive, which portended how the rest of the afternoon would go. Meanwhile, on the ground, Jamaal Williams and Devante Mays – the team’s third- and fourth-string running backs, forced into action because of injuries – rushed 21 times for 56 yards (a 2.7-yard average), with Mays committing two of the Packers’ four fumbles.
When Hundley wasn’t immediately under pressure because of poor offensive line protection, he held the ball too long and caused his own pass rush. When he had time to find his receivers, Hundley was actually fairly accurate, connecting on 21 of 36 throws for 239 yards, including eight completions for 126 yards to Davante Adams, who was the lone bright spot on offense.
Hundley finished with a 43.6 passer rating and 6.6 yards per attempt, a reflection of how either he or head coach Mike McCarthy became more conservative after his second interception, a harried, wild fling deep down the right sideline that was picked off by safety Eric Weddle on Green Bay’s second series. Often, the Packers negated any gains they might have made with broken plays and penalties.
"I can't expect to be perfect, but I can expect to be better than this," Hundley said afterward.
The offensive incompetence – turnovers and stall-outs and 13 empty possessions – gave Baltimore great field position and easy drives. Five times, the Ravens started a series in Green Bay territory, with their five scoring drives going a grand total of only 142 yards. In a slow, ugly and stumbling affair, the Packers actually outgained the Ravens, 265 to 219 yards, and had two additional first downs and more yards per play. But Baltimore just never had to do much to score and comfortably stayed ahead all day.
The Ravens have a very good defense, ranked as the NFL’s fifth-best overall and first in interceptions, with Sunday being their third shutout of the season. But on the other side of the ball, the Packers never made it difficult enough for the league’s third-worst offense, which still kept Green Bay in the game until late because it couldn’t generate its own points, and the home team never had any momentum.
"You have to take care of the football," McCarthy said. "Offensively, that was way too much for us to overcome."
Sunday’s embarrassing collapse erased any positive feelings from last week’s win over the Bears. Rodgers is healing and returned to practice earlier in the week, but the Ravens reminded Green Bay that it has many more troubles than simply its starting quarterback.
If you picked your nose for the entirety of this Packers game, that would’ve been a comparatively productive use of three hours. — Jimmy Carlton (@jimmycarlton88) November 19, 2017
Adams. The fourth-year wide receiver was the one player wearing the throwback blue-and-yellow uniforms who made plays. Targeted 10 times, he averaged 15.8 yards per catch and was the only down-field threat for the Packers, with a 33-yard long and a couple of acrobatic receptions on the sideline. Hundley’s first interception, which was an impressive read-and-react play by Baltimore cornerback Jimmy Smith, was intended for Adams. How different would the game have been if that pick was instead a score?
Granting that it would be easy, and a copout, to say the entire team – which we sort of did above – this category belongs to Hundley. For an offense, coaching staff, league of opponents and fan base so accustomed to Rodgers’ precise, nearly flawless, turnover-allergic style of play – and for a Green Bay squad now with such a small margin for error – Hundley’s giveaways were incapacitating. For the first time on Sunday, the usually confident quarterback looked genuinely rattled and overwhelmed, both in the pocket and in camera shots as he walked off the field after interceptions.
(Mike McCarthy isn't renowned for his play-calling, having fired and then rehired himself for that role in the past, but he does still call the plays. Here we rate his coaching performance, on a score from one to 10 McCarthy heads.)
The Packers’ initial drive was well-scripted and effectively executed, until the interception in the end zone. But, after three turnovers on their first three possessions, once again, McCarthy didn’t seem to know how to react. Baltimore didn’t so much punch Green Bay in the mouth, as it danced and jabbed and let the Packers linger in the fight, but still McCarthy couldn’t conceive an impactful, difference-making response. Also, perhaps amid a first half in which the drive chart went interception, interception, fumble, punt, punt, the coach could have used one of his three timeouts? Hundley was bad, but plenty of NFL teams don’t have Rodgers-caliber quarterbacks, and they still find a way not to be shutout at home against a middling opponent favored by just 2.5 points. Three McCarthy heads.
"We've got too much talent in this locker room on offense, too much talent to go out there and put on a display like that. Zero points. There's no reason we should have zero points whoever we're playing." – Davante Adams
Um. Well, the defense played all right. Again, Joe Flacco (22 of 28 for 183 yards with a touchdown and an interception) and the Ravens are not exactly a major challenge, but Green Bay’s D kept the team in the game. The Packers held Baltimore to 219 total yards, which is nearly 130 below the former’s defensive average and 70 below the latter’s weekly offensive output. Green Bay had three sacks and six quarterback hits – linebackers Kyrel Fackrell and Nick Perry were disruptive – and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had a nice pick. For one week, the #FireDomCapers cries have been quieted, or at least moved to the backburner; in a week-to-week alternation of blame, it’s Hundley’s turn to take the heat.
We’ve covered Hundley’s struggles and McCarthy’s non-solutions extensively already, so let’s briefly look elsewhere. Two issues that became bigger concerns Sunday were the nonexistence of a running game and of wide receivers other than Adams. With top two backs Aaron Jones (knee) and Ty Montgomery (ribs) out, the Packers leaned on rookies Williams (3.2-yard average) and Mays (minus-0.3 with two fumbles). Opponents don’t fear Green Bay’s passing game, and the rushing attack isn’t providing any answers. On the flanks, since Rodgers’ injury, Jordy Nelson has become a forgotten man, while Randall Cobb isn’t getting open in the middle. Both players’ declines suddenly seem accelerated. Also not great, Clay Matthews and Kenny Clark left the game with injuries.
Following their win over the Bears last week, the Packers were looking at a five-game stretch against non-divisional opponents, including three AFC North foes. Now, Green Bay is facing a Sunday night primetime matchup on the road against the 8-2 Pittsburgh Steelers (7:30 p.m. on NBC), for which it will surely be a double-digit underdog. After that, the Packers are home for Tampa Bay and away versus Cleveland, and they absolutely need to win both of those games to boost their fading playoff chances in advance of Rodgers’ potential return in Week 15.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.