It could not have been easy being Brett Hundley last week.
Hundley was struggling through his first two starts. He was 0-2, and an offense that was typically efficient looked like a shell of its former self.
Hundley had prepared three years for this moment. The Green Bay Packers drafted him to be someone who could keep them afloat in the event of an Aaron Rodgers injury. Through two starts and his first-half performance against the Chicago Bears, Hundley looked like anything but a capable quarterback.
He missed open receivers. He bailed early from clean pockets. He struggled to run anything that resembled Mike McCarthy’s offense.
The Packers had been able to run the ball effectively since Hundley took over. Aaron Jones has been a revelation. Ty Montgomery was relatively effective in limited work. Typically that leads to easy success in the passing game.
It had been nothing but tough sledding for Hundley despite that.
The first half against the Bears was more of the same. The Packers scored 10 points, but they left opportunities on the field. Their only touchdown was a 37-yard touchdown run by Ty Montgomery. Hundley missed reads.
The Packers went to the locker room with the lead, but it felt tenuous.
Something happened in the second half. Hundley looked more comfortable. He looked more capable. One of the biggest plays in the second half came on the Packers’ final touchdown drive.
Hundley saw the rush coming from his left. Earlier in the game his response was to almost immediately retreat. Hundley’s poor pocket presence ended any chance of the play succeeding.
This play was different. Hundley saw the rush, escaped and ran up the field. He gave the Packers a big first down. It was a sign of improvement the team was desperately seeking.
A few plays later, he did even more to get the team excited.
Hundley hung in the pocket and rolled to his right as it collapsed. He threw a beautiful pass to Davante Adams for a touchdown that gave the team a 10-point lead in the middle of the fourth quarter.
The pass looked like one that Rodgers makes routinely. Rodgers has a habit of making the extraordinary look ordinary. That does not take away from the fact that Hundley threw a beautiful pass. It was the maturation of the young quarterback in front of everyone.
It was something that carried weight and substance as the game tightened. The Bears added a field goal to get the game back within one possession, at 23-16.
Hundley got the ball with a chance to run the clock out. In an ideal world, the Packers would not have had to give the ball back to the Bears.
Hundley faced a third down deep in his own territory. It would have been understandable if Mike McCarthy called a run play to get the Bears to use their last timeout.
If Rodgers were in the game, the decision would be easy. Let Rodgers try to win the game. It’s different with a backup who has struggled.
Instead, McCarthy gave Hundley a chance to win the game.
Hundley stepped back in the pocket and fired a beautiful strike down the right sideline to Davante Adams, who made a wonderful catch. As great as the play was by Adams, this was about Hundley. It was a statement. He rewarded McCarthy’s vote of confidence.
Because of that, Hundley secured his first win as a starting quarterback. Now that the monkey is off his back, the Packers have business to tend to.
Due to some of the problems they have faced, they are currently on the outside looking in for the playoff chase. Hundley still has four games to play before Aaron Rodgers is even eligible to return from injured reserve.
The Packers likely need to win three out of those four games to give Rodgers a chance to get them to the playoffs. With the version of Hundley that played against the Detroit Lions, that is not possible.
The player that grew up in front of America on Sunday afternoon? That gives the Packers hope. Rebellions are built on hope.
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