It was a simple play: three step drop and drive it to the boundary. For Brett Hundley it was supposed to be more than that.
This was a statement from Hundley and head coach Mike McCarthy.
The training wheels were coming off. Until they didn’t.
Davante Adams made the catch on a perfect throw into tight coverage and fought for a first down.
Two plays later, Hundley turned a zone-read run into a first down with his legs, then danced and found Aaron Ripkowski for nine.
These were plays Hundley wouldn’t or couldn’t make in weeks past. Signs of progress from the quarterback and adaptation from the coach, each necessary steps as the Packers move forward in their collective Aaron Rodgers-less world.
Instead of looking brighter, the post-Rodgers Packerverse looks more like a dystopia than ever.
Green Bay broke tradition, taking the ball on the opening kickoff. There was something appropriate about the aggressive approach with Matt Hasselbeck in the building (he of the infamous “We want the ball and we’re gonna score.”)
Hundley and the offense deliver a 14-play drive covering more than half of the first quarter, but the new kicking battery failed, leading to a blocked kick on a Mason Crosby field goal.
It was a perfect metaphor.
After that, the Packers offense sputtered with a conservative gameplan that featured seemingly nothing that played to its young quarterback’s strengths. Of Hundley’s 18 first-half passes, a whopping 13 went for 5 yards or fewer down the field with eight at or behind the line of scrimmage.
A feverish rush to kick a field goal as the first half made the game 14-3, but the bizarre approach had already done significant damage.
And speaking of damage, Matthew Stafford did plenty to a Dom Capers defense with time to prepare for an offense that was 30th in the league in yards per play coming into Monday night and below average in just about every offensive category.
Only the Lions typically inefficient red zone performance made this a game.
Detroit didn’t punt all night — the first time since 1971 — and the Lions prevailed 30-17 in a performance that can only be described as disappointing.
“Pathetic,” also comes to mind. It was only the second Lions win at Lambeau Field in the last quarter century.
A Mike Daniels headbutt cost the Packers on the Lions opening possession, negating a stop on 3rd-and-13. Detroit would punctuate that mistake with a touchdown.
The first-half led might have been even larger had the Lions not missed a field goal that was sandwiched between two Packers three-and-outs.
Then, a conversion on a beautiful throw-and-catch to Golden Tate on Damarious Randall converted a third down to extend a Lions drive. Later, Kevin King nearly picked a Stafford throw that ended up in Detroit’s longest scoring drive of the season, a 91-yard drive ending in an Ameer Abdullah short touchdown run.
A funny thing happened after that. Down two scores, Mike McCarthy put Hundley in shotgun, spread the formation and let him run something resembling an NFL offense.
Hundley didn’t look perfect but moved the ball down the field and into field goal range. It was the type of approach Green Bay likely should have employed from the start. Rather than try to hide its talented, young quarterback, put him in a position to thrive.
He’s a spread quarterback by pedigree, and this is generally a wide-open offense with Aaron Rodgers. So let Hundley be Hundley.
Instead, the offense forged ahead, stale and ineffective. Hundley jumped around too often in the pocket, bailing from clean protection and missing open receivers.
Meanwhile, sometimes it’s as simple as “one team has a legitimate NFL quarterback and the other doesn’t.”
That sure seemed to be the case Monday night.
Stafford and the Lions carved up a Dom Capers defense that allowed conversion after conversion on third down.
Third-and-10’s? No problem. A dart to the outside for 23. Second-and-18? Somehow Golden Tate winds up covered by Blake Martinez in zone coverage.
A forced fumble in the second half yielded no points and no momentum changes.
Green Bay never looked like a team coming off a bye week.
The offense showed some flashes, but ultimately came up short when it counted.
Defensively, there weren’t even flashes. Capers dialed up blitz after blitz, coming away with negligible pressure. Packers defensive backs struggled to find the ball and watched passes whiz by.
Stafford stood in the pocket — something Hundley repeatedly failed to do — and fired throws all over the field en route to 365 yards and two touchdowns to go with a 135 quarterback rating.
Until a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, the Packers offense had managed six points in five quarters dating back to the Saints game.
And with that score bringing the Packers within 10, the defense turned around to give up a touchdown set up by a 63-yard screen play to Theo Riddick. It was a stupendous call from Jim Bob Cooter against a Capers all-out blitz.
Another fitting metaphor: Green Bay’s defensive desperation leads to opponent success.
Self-scouting on the bye week clearly didn’t cut it for the Packers. Perhaps some soul-searching in the weeks to come is in order as it becomes clear Rodgers covered for just about every flaw this team had.
Those flaws were exposed Monday night for the world to see. A Packers team 7-1 in its last eight games was supposed to be steeped in preparation against the Lions.
All we saw was desperation, a team unable to find answers.
With Rodgers gone until at least mid-December, it doesn’t appear we should expect answers anytime soon.