It was only a win over the Bears, but Hundley made some clutch throws to bring Green Bay back into the playoff hunt.
Brett Hundley ran off the turf at Soldier Field Sunday and beelined to one man. In one whirling motion, he hugged Aaron Rodgers so hard it looked like it might crack the former MVP’s already-dodgy collarbone.
Rodgers laughed it off. Hundley deserved his props — the derided Packers backup is the reason why Green Bay escaped a Week 10 showdown in Chicago with a win.
Injuries to top tailbacks Aaron Jones (knee) and Ty Montgomery (ribs) forced the Packers’ hand, pressing Hundley — a quarterback whose first two NFL starts relied heavily on short passes and checkdowns — into a more aggressive mindset. The third-year veteran responded with the best performance of his career.
The Brett Hundley to Davante Adams connection has arrived
In the fourth quarter, Hundley stepped into a pair of big plays that helped shut the door on the Bears’ comeback chances. The first was a second-and-9 laser to Davante Adams, tossed with precision into a window where only the Packers wideout could grab it. Adams snatched the ball and darted past the pylon for a 19-yard touchdown — the second of Hundley’s career.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) November 13, 2017
One drive later, with the Bears trailing by seven points, the young passer took the biggest risk of his afternoon on third-and-10 with the two-minute warning approaching. His deep ball spiraled softly into the hands of Adams, who was pushed out of bounds after a 42-yard gain. Only a botched Mason Crosby field goal prevented the team from icing the game then and there.
“I trust Davante,” Hundley said after the game. “He’s a heck of a playmaker. That’s what you call a trust throw. Get it up there and let him make a play, and he did what he does best.”
Hundley delivered when the Packers needed him most
It was a remarkable turnaround for a player who has struggled with his new starring role in the Green Bay offense. In two starts and three games since Rodgers’ injury, Hundley had yet to lead the Packers to a win. He averaged a meager 5 yards per throw and had only one touchdown to four interceptions. His quarterback rating was 58.3.
Things didn’t look much different early against the Bears. Hundley’s game got off to a rough start as the Packers decided to challenge Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller early and often, with limited success. While he completed the bulk of his passes, a risk-averse game plan limited Hundley to just 86 passing yards in the first half.
Then, fate intervened. The dynamic rushing duo of Jones and Montgomery was relegated to the sideline, forcing the impetus on Hundley’s arm. While rookie third-string tailback Jamaal Williams performed well in relief duty, it was the quarterback’s ability to extend drives that allowed his team to grind Chicago down to a fine paste. In the second half, Green Bay converted five of its eight third-down situations in which Hundley dropped back to pass.
The difference in demeanor was clear. Hundley played with more urgency and confidence Sunday, bringing back some of the preseason swagger that raised his stock the past three Augusts. He showed off his mobility with a 17-yard scamper on third-and-2 that set up the Adams touchdown pass. His fourth quarter was, statistically, the best 15 minutes of quarterbacking the Packers had seen all season.
Brett Hundley had a perfect passer rating (158.3) in the 4th quarter vs the Bears. Aaron Rodgers did not have a perfect passer rating in any quarter this season
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) November 12, 2017
But there’s still plenty of room for improvement
There were flaws, too. A wasted timeout on one of the most obvious hard counts in NFL history as the first quarter wound down. A delay of game penalty directly before his third down bomb to Adams late in the fourth quarter while the Bears were still threatening. He’s struggled to find ways to connect with top wideout Jordy Nelson.
Green Bay — and Hundley — still have a ways to go. Beating the Bears isn’t exactly the kind of marquee win that will strike fear in the hearts of NFC North rivals. But Chicago had held opposing quarterbacks to an average 88.7 rating up until Sunday, and Hundley walked off the field with a 110.8 and an efficient 8.5 yards per pass average.
“We just have to keep this momentum going,” Hundley told reporters after his first win as a starter. “We have to ride the wave. I think it gives us a boost of confidence for sure, especially getting the first one under us, but every week is a new week.”
That’s a step in the right direction — and exactly what the franchise needed to see after losing both its effective tailbacks. Hundley responded to the challenge, making the kind of throws that can push the Packers back to the playoffs. Now he’ll have to do it against a better team than the 3-6 Bears to prove he’s for real.
That seemed like a long shot after Week 9, but Hundley’s perfect fourth quarter and the veteran accuracy he displayed connecting with Adams suggest it might not be such a bad bet after all.
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