It turns out, as long as the Packers start a QB named Brett or Aaron, they can handle the Bears. Hundley was the first QB not named Favre or Rodgers to start against Chicago since 1991 and happily, the results were the same as usual. Make it eight straight wins at Soldier Field and suddenly the Packers have a pulse.
This was a major step forward for Hundley who played much of the game with a tight hamstring, causing him to rely more on his arm than his legs. Despite playing in chilly, rainy conditions, Hundley looked more comfortable than he had in his previous three games, particularly in the fourth quarter. His touchdown pass to Davante Adams was a thing of beauty and his 42 yard strike down the sidelines to Adams late on third and ten was perfection.
With Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery both knocked out with injuries by halftime, the Pack’s offense was down to just Jamal Williams at halfback, limiting McCarthy’s play calling ability a bit (Devante Mays was inactive). Williams delivered in a workmanlike performance and his role in this victory was huge, even if his yards per carry was average. He fought hard through tackles and earned some key extra yards when they were needed most. Looks like he’ll be the primary ballcarrier for the next few weeks. Overall, the Pack ran for 160 yards–something they have to continue to do for as long as Rodgers is out.
On the other side of the ball, we finally saw the pass rush come to life, thanks to a monster game by Nick Perry. Facing a rookie quarterback helped, but whoever was back there, it was nice to see him on the ground five times–with Perry notching three sacks and Mike Daniels getting his first since the season opener. The run defense was solid as well, limiting the Bears to just 55 yards on the ground on 17 carries.
The pass defense is still a concern as Trubisky threw for nearly 3oo yards. Let’s face it: this will be a problem all season. Davon House got torched for a long touchdown and Kevin King got knocked out with a shoulder injury. Fortunately for the Pack, of the next four opponents, only Big Ben and his passing attack scare you. The other three QBs they’ll likely face over the next month are Joe Flacco, Ryan Fitzpatrick and DeShone Kizer.
The Pack didn’t turn the ball over–a positive sign for sure, but special teams did them no favors. From Trevor Davis taking a punt out of the end zone, to multiple penalties on punt returns, to the bungled hold by Justin Vogel on a late field goal attempt that would put the game away. The Packers have to clean things up on special teams: the margin for error is razor thin when Rodgers in on the sidelines.
We know there’s no guarantee that #12 will be back this season. But we also know there’s no chance he’ll return if the Pack is out of the playoff hunt. The team has a legitimate chance to win three of its next four, with home games against the Ravens and Bucs and road games in Pittsburgh in Cleveland. If Hundley can continue to show the growth he displayed at Soldier Field (and if that hamstring settles down), the Pack has a good chance of still being in the thick of things when they head to Carolina in Week 15. That, of course, is the week Rodgers is eligible to return.
For now, we turn our attention to the Ravens, another team coming off its bye. What we watched on Sunday should give us hope that Hundley, Williams, Perry and the rest of the team will get a little swagger back. A win at Lambeau next Sunday would keep our dreams of a ninth straight post-season alive.