Packers Insider: Thumbs down to Brett Hundley, up to defense
THE BIG PICTURE
In a performance as bland and uninspiring as their throwback uniforms, the Packers were shut out for the first time since coach Mike McCarthy’s first season in 2006. Green Bay’s 23-0 loss — its third straight at Lambeau Field — all but extinguished any faint playoff hopes: At 5-5, the Packers trail the first-place Vikings (8-2) by three games in the NFC North and can’t be viewed as serious wild-card contenders in a highly competitive conference. The Packers will be heavy underdogs in next Sunday’s prime-time matchup at Pittsburgh and with little chance of reaching the postseason, it would make no sense for Aaron Rodgers to risk trying to return to the field this year.
Fresh off their upset victory at Chicago, the Packers took the opening kickoff and quickly marched down to the Ravens’ 10-yard line, with Brett Hundley hitting Jordy Nelson for 17 yards on the first play and Davante Adams for 33 two plays later. But just when it seemed Hundley might be building off his strong fourth-quarter showing against the Bears, he threw a bad end-zone pass that was intercepted by Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith. After the Packers’ defense got the ball back, Hundley threw another bad interception that set Baltimore up near midfield and led to the first of Justin Tucker’s three field goals. As it turns out, those three points were all the Ravens would need.
SILVERSTEIN: Hundley's play sparks tough questions
DOUGHERTY: McCarthy fails to provide help for Hundley
Credit Green Bay’s defense for not allowing this game to get completely out of hand. Despite being placed in bad position time and again by a turnover-happy offense, the defense, for the most part, kept the Ravens out of the end zone. For all of the Packers’ offensive ineptitude, this was still a two-score game at 13-0 with under five minutes remaining. The Packers yielded a season-low 219 yards of total offense, the fewest they’ve allowed since Week 7 of last season when they limited the Bears to 189.
RELATED: Defense lacking ‘impactful plays’
So now we know why McCarthy had been keeping Hundley on a short leash. Finally given more leeway Sunday after making some clutch throws in Chicago, Hundley was intercepted on each of the Packers’ first two series, threw three picks on the day and also lost a fumble after being leveled by Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs. When Hundley wasn’t giving the ball up, he frequently was heaving it out of bounds while fleeing from Ravens pass rushers. Rather than giving backup Joe Callahan a late look, McCarthy stuck with Hundley to the bitter end. The final numbers: 21-for-36 for 236 yards and an abysmal passer rating of 43.6.
VIDEO CHAT: Aaron Nagler postgame with fans
PACKERS CHAT: Ryan Wood at 1 p.m. Monday
5 TAKEAWAYS: Early capsule review of the game
RANTS AND RAVES
RANT: So much for the “next man up” philosophy in the Packers’ backfield. First, it was Aaron Jones, drafted in the fifth round, stepping in for injured starter Ty Montgomery. Then last week in Chicago, fourth-round pick Jamaal Williams came on when Jones and Montgomery were sidelined and carried 20 times for 67 yards. When Williams needed a breather Sunday, it was seventh-round pick Devante Mays’ turn, but that’s where the Packers’ feel-good story ends. Mays lost a fumble on his first NFL carry and wasn’t seen again until garbage time (when he immediately fumbled again). Instead of using the ground game to take some heat off Hundley, the Packers ran the ball only twice in the first quarter. McCarthy admitted afterward that he lost confidence in Mays after the fumble and didn’t want to over-extend Williams, whom he called the “one halfback I believed in.” Williams was limited to 57 yards on 18 carries but added four catches for 37 yards.
RAVE: A whiff of explosiveness finally returned to the Packers’ passing game in Chicago when Hundley and Adams connected on a 19-yard TD pass and a clutch 42-yard bomb on a key third-down play. Against the Ravens, Adams again was a shining light on an otherwise dismal day for the offense, catching eight passes for 126 yards. It was a season-high for Packers receivers and more proof that re-signing Adams before he hits free agency needs to be one of general manager Ted Thompson’s top priorities.
RANT: On a day when nothing McCarthy tried seemed to work, the Packers continually found themselves on the short end of the field-position battle. Only once did the Packers begin a possession in Baltimore territory (and then only because of an unsportsmanlike conduct call on the Ravens for "verbally abusing an official"), while the Ravens' offense started five drives in Green Bay territory.
RANT: There were plenty of depressing sights for the Packers, but the worst may have been seeing second-year defensive tackle Kenny Clark carted off the field with an ankle injury after his right leg was rolled up on early in the fourth quarter. Clark's emergence has been one of the season's few bright spots. Clay Matthews, who recorded his first sack since Week 4 in the first quarter, also was knocked out of the game with a groin injury. Right tackle Justin McCray left with a third-quarter knee injury and was replaced by 2016 second-round pick Jason Spriggs, who was rusty and ineffective after returning from the injured reserve list.
BOX SCORE: Ravens 23, Packers 0
GAME BLOG: Review Silverstein's live coverage
BITS AND PIECES
» With two catches for 24 yards, Nelson moved ahead of James Lofton into third place on the Packers’ career receptions list with 532. He trails Donald Driver (743) and Sterling Sharpe (595).
» The Packers fell to 4-2 in their all-time series against the Ravens (3-1 at Lambeau Field).
» The Packers’ inactives included cornerback Kevin King, who is dealing with a shoulder injury. The other inactives were running backs Jones and Montgomery, safety Morgan Burnett, offensive lineman Adam Pankey and defensive linemen Montravius Adams and Chris Odom.
» Although paid attendance at Lambeau Field was announced as 77,945, the stadium was half-empty by midway through the fourth quarter, a rare and sobering sight.