4 Downs: Packers QB Brett Hundley limits costly mistakes
Every week I’ll share four observations the day after the Green Bay Packers game. Here they are after the Packers’ 26-20 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Brett Hundley didn’t have the key ballhandling mishaps that plagued his counterpart, Jameis Winston, but he did have one badly missed throw that took points off the board for the Packers. In the first quarter, receiver Geronimo Allison broke uncovered on a corner route on a third down from Tampa Bay’s 19. All Hundley had to do was put the ball on Allison and it would have been a touchdown — Allison was so open he didn’t even need to lead him. But Hundley overshot Allison. That left the Packers with fourth-and-6, so they kicked the 37-yard field goal that cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 7-3. Winston, on the other hand, lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown; had a snap hit his legs on third-and-goal when he was walking to the line to change a play call; and fumbled another ball in the fourth quarter when he made a cursory fake on a handoff, then seemed to try to either fake it again or hand it off as the running back ran past him. Winston had much better stats (112.8 rating, two touchdowns) than Hundley (48.3, no touchdowns) but he made more, and more costly, errors.
Dom Capers has juggled his personnel in the secondary all season, and not just because of injuries. This week, he did it again with a dime group that included backup safety Jermaine Whitehead rather than cornerback Josh Hawkins or safety Marwin Evans as the sixth defensive back. Hawkins and Evans both had been playing ahead of Whitehead for most of this season. A spot was open in the dime because rookie Kevin King (shoulder injury) was inactive. Recently, Capers had been using Hawkins to replace King, and for most of the season, Evans has played ahead of Whitehead in the rotation, too. Whitehead didn’t make the defensive stat sheet — he had two special teams tackles — and was beaten on a 28-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cameron Brate in the first quarter.
Capers has used a NASCAR pass rush (four outside linebackers) at times in the past but he went to it Sunday for possibly the first time this season and used it regularly on obvious passing downs. For most of the season, Capers’ dime has consisted of three outside linebackers plus defensive lineman Mike Daniels. On Sunday, though, it was four outside linebackers — Nick Perry, Clay Matthews, Ahmad Brooks and Kyler Fackrell. When on the field together, they produced one sack, by Matthews, who had 2½ for the game. I won’t know for sure until the snap counts come out later Monday, but it appeared rookie Vince Biegel was never a part of that package.
It’s hard to know for sure until viewing the videotape, but it appeared Jahri Evans and the Packers’ interior line kept Tampa Bay’s best defensive player, Gerald McCoy, from dominating. McCoy averaged 7.9 sacks the last four seasons and had five coming into Sunday’s game. But he didn’t sack or have a hit on Hundley, according to the official stat sheet. He had two tackles for a loss, but halfback Jamaal Williams averaged 5.4 yards a carry, so McCoy didn’t dominate there, either.