GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If the Green Bay Packers can’t win a game when they intercept a future Hall of Fame quarterback twice, block an extra point and watch their rookie running back easily top the 100-yard mark, they may never win one without Aaron Rodgers.
That might sound like a bleak outlook for Brett Hundley, but the first-time starting quarterback couldn’t have been put in a much better situation for a debut than he was Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
Yet Hundley couldn’t make the one big throw the Packers needed in clutch situations, and the 78,380 who watched the 26-17 loss had to leave Lambeau Field wondering if this will be a repeat of 2013, when coach Mike McCarthy’s team went more than a month after Rodgers’ last broken collarbone before they won a game.
Hundley tried to do it with his feet, and it was nearly enough. He gave the Packers a 14-7 lead with a 14-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. He later scrambled for 22 yards to convert a third down and took a read-option for 8 yards and a first down on a third-quarter field goal drive that briefly gave the Packers a 17-16 lead in the fourth quarter.
Rookie running back Aaron Jones did his part too. He put together his second 100-yard rushing game in three weeks. Jones, who had a 46-yard touchdown run on the opening drive, appeared to cement his spot as the Packers’ No. 1 back with 131 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
"The big emphasis was the run game this week," Hundley said.
"I think [McCarthy] called a great game and the name of the game is we’ve got to execute," Hundley added. "I didn’t play well enough, and we didn’t score enough points to win the game, and that’s all that matters. At the end of the day, every play is designed to score a touchdown, so no matter what you call it should technically score. I have to play better and we just have to execute.”
But McCarthy rarely asked Hundley to throw the ball down the field. Hundley needed to on third-and-9 from his own 11-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. Instead, he threw short to tight end Martellus Bennett for a 5-yard gain, forcing the Packers -- down two points at the time -- to punt.
"I’m particularly disgusted with the second half, and that’s something you have to take a hard look at, which we do each and every week," McCarthy said. "But as a head coach when your team doesn’t perform and drops off the way it did in the second half, [you’re] disappointed."
Hundley and the offense couldn’t generate any points off Drew Brees’ first-half interceptions. Damarious Randall’s third interception in as many games was followed by a three-and-out. Davon House’s interception on the very next series led to another three-and-out. On both possessions, the Packers ran on first and second down to set up third-and-1. On the first one, Hundley missed Davante Adams on a short throw right to the first-down marker. On the second, it was another run -- a 3-yard loss by Ty Montgomery.
Hundley managed most of the game without making a killer mistake after he threw three interceptions in relief last week when Rodgers broke his collarbone in Minnesota. Hundley threw the ball away when there wasn’t a safe shot to take until late in the fourth quarter when, down by nine points, Hundley had an interception on one of his rare deep throws. He completed just 12 of 25 passes for 87 yards without a touchdown for a passer rating of 39.9.
Most telling was that Hundley didn't complete a pass on a ball thrown 15 or more yards downfield. He was 0-for-4 on such throws, according to ESPN Stats & Information. As well as he moved in the run game, he was just 1-of-6 passing from outside the pocket.
McCarthy will have the bye next week to figure out what he can do in order to be more dynamic in the passing game with Hundley.
“I’m sure me and Mike will sit down and go over the game, like we always do, and we’ll talk and we’ll figure out what we can do more of and what we don’t want to do going forward," Hundley said. "So that’s something that we’ll figure out down the road.”