CHICAGO – The Packers would have taken a win any way they could have gotten it Sunday, but to get one with Brett Hundley playing the way he did in the fourth quarter meant even more.
Hundley was absolutely clutch when it mattered most in the 23-16 victory over the Bears at Soldier Field. He delivered the type of crunch-time performance that could go a long way as the Packers try to climb back in the NFC North race.
Doing what he did with a tight hamstring only added to the circumstances that define NFL quarterbacks.
“That was another part of it,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said not long after Hundley posted a 110.8 passer rating that was nowhere near that number through three quarters.
“He kept us going steady and never blinked. He never told me to get out of anything or stay away from this or that. He took a step today.”
A big one, and it started when the Bears hit a 46-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to climb within 16-13.
Just over 10 minutes remained and the Packers had to respond. Pressure? You bet, but this is when quarterbacks have to deliver, and Hundley did.
He immediately hit Davante Adams for 18 yards over the middle on the first play of the next drive. Five snaps later, it was third-and-2 from the Chicago 37, and he calmly scrambled to his left into the open field. Taking care not to make the hamstring any worse, he picked up 17 yards and got down in bounds.
“That was about the slowest I’ve ever ran in my life. Hopefully I won’t have to do that again,” Hundley said. He added about his hamstring, “I’ll be fine. You figure it out and you keep going.”
Two plays later, Hundley made maybe his best throw as a pro. Stepping out of the pocket to his right, he made eye contact with Adams, who was heading toward the front pylon of the end zone.
Hundley whistled a pass right by the defender’s helmet, and Adams showed great body control to spin back, grab it and get his feet down in bounds for the 19-yard TD.
“One thing about Davante, you put it in his catch radius and he’ll make the play,” McCarthy said. “That’s two guys on the same page on the scramble drill, and a big play.”
But they weren’t done. After the Bears responded with a field goal to get back within seven, the Packers had 3:19 to kill.
Facing third-and-5 with 2:12 to go, Hundley made his one late-game mistake. He didn’t get the play off and took a penalty for delay. He quickly shook it off, though, and fired deep to Adams down the right sideline on third-and-10.
“You can’t dwell on it,” Hundley said of the penalty. “What’s that going to do?”
It wouldn’t have helped him make a pinpoint accurate throw over Adams’ shoulder, that’s for sure. Adams appeared to haul it in one-handed for a 42-yard gain that was huge in a number of ways.
“I trust Davante,” Hundley said. “He’s a heck of a playmaker. That’s what you call a trust throw. Get it up there and let him make a play, and he did what he does best.”
That the shot play wasn’t converted into the game-sealing points wasn’t Hundley’s fault. He did everything he needed to do in the clutch moments to get his first win as an NFL starter.
Sure, he’ll look at the film and regret at least one of the three sacks he took and a throw or two that had a chance to keep a drive going. The success of the running game, allowing play-action to be effective, also greatly helped Hundley’s cause, and the Bears are certainly not the juggernaut the Saints, against whom Hundley made his first NFL start, appear to be.
But given how Hundley and the offense struggled mightily in the fourth quarter against New Orleans, Sunday’s finish was progress to the nth degree. That in itself could make this game worth more than just one win.
It’s easy to understand what McCarthy meant this past week when he said “we needed that drive” at the end of the fourth quarter against the Lions, which turned into a touchdown despite Monday night’s loss being out of reach at that point.
The only thing that matters more in the NFL than quarterback play is quarterback play in the fourth quarter, and Hundley came through.
“We just have to keep this momentum going,” he said. “We have to ride the wave. I think it gives us a boost of confidence for sure, especially getting the first one under us, but every week is a new week.
“I’ll enjoy this for the next couple hours, but once we get back and get settled down and tomorrow hits, we’ve got another game to win.”
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