Packers notes: Despite struggles, Brett Hundley delivering in clutch
GREEN BAY – A day after Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Hundley passed for just 84 yards, his coaches were trying to focus on the positive.
They can’t really afford to destroy whatever confidence Hundley has left from the Pittsburgh game two weeks ago when he threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions, not with a must-win game at Cleveland coming up.
After barely beating the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8) 26-20 in overtime Sunday at Lambeau Field, the Packers must take care of business against the winless Cleveland Browns (0-12) or the possible return of starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers might be moot.
Hundley has to play better or the Packers are in trouble.
“He wants to win,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “Just to see his excitement after the game, it’s about winning for him. He knows that he has things that he’ll continue to work on and will improve. But he’s been around. This is his third season.
“He knows how hard it is to win in December and how important these games are. We’re going to get him ready. We’re going to do a good job and make sure he gets what he needs on Sunday to be productive.”
What the coaches are hanging their hat on is that Hundley has come up big at the end of close games, even when he has played lousy leading up to it.
He saved his best for last in a victory in Chicago, tied up the game late with a touchdown drive against the Steelers and produced two big first-down runs in the eight-play, 72-yard touchdown drive that won the game in overtime Sunday.
“As far as when we needed him the most, he made plays,” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said. “You can go back to the fourth-quarter drive to get that field goal to put us in position to go into overtime and then you come back out in the overtime period and we drive the ball down the field with him making quite a few plays to put us in a position to win.
“I kind of look at it from a positive standpoint: When we needed him the most he made the plays that were necessary for us to win the game.”
Bombing on big screen: When the Packers weren’t sacking Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, they were letting him complete screens to a host of different receivers.
He completed traditional screens to running backs, wide receiver screens and screens thrown to running backs lined up as receivers.
Linebackers Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez both snuffed out screens, but there were far more occasions when poor angles, lost leverage and lack of awareness resulted in big gains.
“It’s an obvious thing whenever you’re getting pressure on the quarterback,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said of team’s countering with screen passes. “We actually had a ‘screen’ call at times when we think we’re going to get the screen to alert those guys to the screen.”
Apparently, not enough guys were listening.
Until they prove they can stop screens consistently, teams are going to keep throwing them.
“Way too much production yesterday against the Buccaneers,” McCarthy said. “That’s clearly evident and something that we reviewed in the coaching film and coaches’ review.
“We need to do a better job. We’re working on it. Screens are good vs. particular fire-zone coverages and things like that. At the end of the day, it comes down to fundamentals. You have to play with more awareness and technique.”
The other Mac: Four years ago, Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo was a hot commodity on the coaching circuit.
On Monday, he was looking for work.
McCarthy, who brought McAdoo to Green Bay when he arrived in 2006, had little to say about the New York Giants’ decision to fire him Monday after less than two years as their head coach.
“Obviously, Ben McAdoo’s situation is personal,” McCarthy said. “I just can’t say enough about him as a man, as a husband, as a father and as a friend. That’s really where my focus is. Based on what goes on in other organizations, I don’t have an opinion. Just focused on his well-being.”
Grabbing hold: Special-teams coach Ron Zook had little explanation for linebacker Vince Biegel’s killer holding penalty on Trevor Davis’ 70-yard kickoff return in the first quarter.
Instead of starting its first drive on the Tampa Bay 29, the offense started on its own 30.
“It was a double-team, and once again, did he hold?” Zook said. “I guess he was holding because he called it. It’s just a ticky-tacky thing. I feel bad for Trevor.”
Zook said he went back and looked at all the holds the Packers have committed on Davis’ returns and none of them would have had an effect on the return. While that speaks well of Davis, it doesn’t reflect well on the blocking units since they’d be better off not blocking at all than committing a penalty.
“That’s just the way they called it,” Zook said.