GREEN BAY – Brett Hundley wants to feed his perimeter weapons, knowing full well what Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams are capable of when the trio of receivers touches the ball.
Hundley also hopes to see the emerging backfield tandem of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams rack up yards on the ground like it did in the Packers’ 26-20 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
More than anything, the Packers’ backup quarterback is looking to sustain drives whether it’s through the air, out of the backfield or even tucking the ball himself and scrambling towards the first-down marker.
That’s the mindset Hundley is taking with him into this Sunday’s game against the winless Cleveland Browns.
“What hurt us last game is we had a couple three-and-outs, and that sort of halts a lot, and then Tampa Bay's offense is going on pretty long drives.” Hundley said. “There's a multitude of things that sort of dictates how much you pass, how much you run, sort of the flow of the game. So we just have to sustain drives, and that will give us more of an opportunity.”
The offensive stat sheet hasn’t exactly equated directly to wins and losses over the past few weeks. In Green Bay’s 31-28 loss in Pittsburgh, Hundley threw for 245 yards and three touchdowns, registering a 134.3 passer rating that bested Ben Roethlisberger by 30 points.
Last Sunday, Hundley threw for only 84 yards as the Packers’ running backs, defense and special-teams units stepped up in the overtime triumph over the Buccaneers.
Consistency has been a common utterance for Hundley since supplanting an injured Aaron Rodgers in Minnesota on Oct. 15. The Packers have moved the ball on the first drive in each of Hundley’s six starts, but maintaining that early momentum has been a challenge at times.
Sunday was one of those days, as Nelson, Cobb and Adams combined for nine catches on 14 targets for 61 yards.
“They are all playmakers,” Hundley said. “Randall Cobb and Jordy, Davante, when they get the ball, that's really – like I said at the beginning – the offense runs through them. When we get them involved in space, they do a lot of great things. So that is what we try to do on offense.”
Hundley had success with his feet against the Buccaneers, running seven times for 66 yards. Nearly half of those yards came off read-option during the Packers’ last two offensive series (18 yards on second-and-10 and 14 yards on third-and-2).
On 21 scrambles this year, Hundley has rushed for 176 yards (8.4 avg.) and two touchdowns. The Packers have had read-option concepts in their playbook in the past, but the success in the backfield matched with Hundley’s athletic skillset have led to it becoming more common without Rodgers.
“You’ve just got to be smart on how to take the hits,” Hundley said. “You’ve got to absorb the hit rather than just go face-first into it. Whether it’s a zone-read game or downhill, it doesn’t really matter. I’ve got to protect myself when I’m running it. That’s how it goes.”
Rodgers, eligible to be activated for the Packers’ Week 15 game in Carolina, made his return to practice on Saturday after the Packers designated him as their second player to return from injured reserve this season.
The two-time MVP quarterback drew rave reviews from teammates in the locker room who praised his mobility and arm strength, but everyone knows it’s going to be at least another week before the conversation becomes relevant about Rodgers’ chances of playing again this season.
“I think we know when he comes back what he brings to the table,” Matthews said. “In the meantime, there's no point in getting too excited over his hopeful return, because Brett's our guy. We've got these four more games, and I assume one more game with Brett at the helm. We've got to get this win first.”
The Browns’ 0-12 record and 32nd-ranked scoring offense have disguised a relatively solid season for their defense, which is ranked 10th in total yards and ninth against the run after transitioning to a 4-3 scheme under Gregg Williams. Cleveland also boasts two of the league’s top five tacklers in former Wisconsin linebacker Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey.
For all the outside noise, Hundley is focused on the Browns and viewing this week like any other.
“I’ve got to approach it like I’m the starter each and every week,” Hundley said. “Even when I was the backup, every week, I try to approach it like I’m the starter because as we saw (against the) Vikings, you never know what’s going to happen. Whatever happens, happens. I just have to approach it and be ready if my number’s called upon.”