By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Packers rallied for their quarterback and their future.
Green Bay’s offense, Hundley rise up AGAIN when it counts after struggling
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Trailing by 14 points entering the fourth quarter, Green Bay scored two touchdowns to tie Cleveland and ultimately defeat the Browns 27-21 in overtime.
The Packers’ second overtime win in as many games kept the Browns (0-13) winless. It also kept the Packers’ feint playoff hopes alive, especially given the possibility of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ return from a broken right collarbone.
“The way we fought these last two weeks … to get that overtime win last week and do that same thing is huge,” Packers’ linebacker Clay Matthews told reporters. “There’s your season right there.”
Brett Hundley, the Packers’ starter until Rodgers returns, has managed to win three of seven starts.
Green Bay (7-6) is at Carolina on Sunday before finishing with games at home against Minnesota and at Detroit to close it out.
Hundley completed 35 of 46 passes for 265 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He posted a quarterback rating of 111.2 and was sacked just once.
Hundley outperformed his counterpart, DeShone Kizer, who was 20 of 28 for 214 yards, three touchdowns and a very good quarterback rating of 99.4.
However, his two interceptions were killers.
That was especially true of Kizer’s overtime interception. Matthews applied heavy pressure and Kizer, both inexplicably and unwisely, threw the pass anyway.
The Packers’ Josh Jones made a terrific play on the football to corral the interception. The Packers’ offense took it from there with Hundley hitting Davante Adams on a 25-yard touchdown pass to seal the victory.
“It gives us a lot of confidence going forward,” Hundley told reporters. “This team has a lot of fight, I’ll tell you that. We’re not out of this thing. We have a lot of fight in us. These last two games, we fought back.
“When we needed to execute, we executed. When our backs were against the wall, we came out swinging. We’ve done it for the last two weeks – came up short (against) the Steelers. This team has a lot of fight and it’s not over yet.”
The over-riding question today is will Rodgers return?
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy deferred when asked by reporters about Rodgers’ possible return, instead electing to take the question later this week.
“We love Aaron Rodgers, but I will not answer any questions about him today,” McCarthy said. “This is about winning the game, and he’s still in the medical situation and as soon as we have the information we’ll try to get it to you.”
Clearly, the stage has been set.
My unsolicited but well-intentioned advice regarding Rodgers:
** 1 – If he’s entirely healed then he should take the majority of reps this week and start at Carolina.
** 2 – If he’s not entirely healthy I have to say, “What’s the question?” In that case he doesn’t suit up, no way, no how.
Frankly, I would have Hundley take the starter’s reps this week and prepare as if he’s going to be the guy at Carolina.
Meantime, I’d continue to gauge Rodgers’ progress during the week.
Come game time, I’d start Hundley and take it from there.
If the Panthers come out and score touchdowns on four of their first five possessions it doesn’t make sense to play Rodgers.
Perhaps Hundley will continue to play well enough to win.
Either way, the Packers at least have a chance.
Carolina looked strong in hammering Minnesota 31-24 Sunday and undoubtedly feels great about its chances to make a playoff run. Cam Newton and the Panthers are less than 24 months from being a 15-1 regular-season dynamo and scoring champion.
Then the Panthers were dealt the stunning Super Bowl loss.
Clearly, this game means as much to Carolina as Green Bay.
Can the Packers’ defense shut down Newton and Co.?
After surrendering touchdown passes in each of the first three quarters at Cleveland, the Packers’ defense pitched a shutout in the fourth quarter and overtime.
The Packers’ special teams also delivered key plays, the biggest being Trevor Davis’ game-saving 65-yard punt return. It set up the Packers’ seven-play, 25-yard drive – capped by a 1-yard touchdown pass to Adams – to tie the game at 2:20 to play.
At one point, according to an ESPN tweet, the Packers had about a 4-percent chance of beating the Browns.
Still, Hundley and the Packers overcame the odds.
Special teams’ also chipped in with Jermaine Whitehead’s 7-yard run to convert a fourth down on the Packers’ first drive. It eventually led to a Jamaal Williams touchdown run.
After that, a tug-of-war ensued until the Browns’ Kizer connected with Corey Coleman for a touchdown late in the third quarter. That made it 21-7 Cleveland.
Things looked bleak for Green Bay.
Then Hundley and the offense, as if on cue, came to the rescue. It wasn’t the spectacular, sparkling, game-winning drives we’ve grown accustomed to seeing with Rodgers.
It was effective though.
Most of all, it was enough to keep the Packers’ hopes alive.