CLEVELAND – There’s just no quit in these Packers.
So whether or not quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns next week – and Mike McCarthy did not address the issue after Sunday’s 27-21 overtime triumph over the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium – the Packers are simply living to fight another day, and that’s all they can ask for right now.
Lately, they haven’t exactly been getting the help they need to set up a run to a wild-card playoff spot, not with the Seahawks beating the conference-leading Eagles last week, and the Falcons and Panthers pulling out close games this week. (Seattle’s game against Jacksonville on Sunday was still in progress at the time of this posting.)
But they can’t care about that. None of it matters if the Packers don’t keep winning, and even though nothing has looked convincing or pretty the past two weeks, Green Bay is still kicking.
“My number one thought going into it was to keep our hopes alive to make the playoffs, and we’re still in it,” quarterback Brett Hundley said after his second straight OT win. “At the end of the day, whatever happens, happens, but we’re still in it, so let’s keep rolling.”
If this was indeed Hundley’s last game as the Packers’ starter, give him credit. Sure, Green Bay was hoping for better than a 3-5 mark in relief of Rodgers, because just one more win would make the Packers’ situation look so much better now.
But Hundley gave it everything he had, especially Sunday in taking the reins of a spread-’em-out attack that brought the Packers back from two touchdowns behind on the road.
There were several moments in Cleveland when the Packers’ season could have come to an ignominious end, but Hundley didn’t buckle when the pressure was cranked to its highest.
“He plays his best football when the game is on the line, and you can’t teach that,” McCarthy said. “He’s a winner.”
Hundley deftly avoided some potential sacks, found a rhythm with the quick outs and wide receiver screens, and hit slants over the middle in some key spots.
It’s not easy to overcome four straight fruitless possessions, on the road, against a team feeling legitimate momentum toward a first victory.
When Hundley brain-locked on a fourth-and-1 from the Cleveland 10 in the third quarter and gave away a great scoring chance, this appeared to be the game that would define Green Bay’s season for the wrong reasons.
But he overcame the huge mistake with a ton of weight on his shoulders. The defense and special teams picked him up down the stretch with some big plays of their own, and now he’s theoretically passing the baton back to the Packers’ leader with opportunity still knocking.
“I wish we could do this from the start and carry it over for 60 minutes instead of making it so intense,” Hundley said. “But we do what we have to do.”
If there’s been a theme to this season for the Packers – aside from another injury epidemic that continued with cornerback Davon House getting carted off the field with a back injury – it’s exactly what Hundley said.
The Packers have now come back to win three times in the same season from 14 points down for the first time ever, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Rodgers led the rallies against Cincinnati and Dallas. Hundley now has one on his ledger.
It’s a dangerous way to live, but apparently it’s the Green Bay way in 2017, no matter who’s healthy enough to play.
“As long as we have an opportunity, I still believe we can win any game,” Hundley said. “As long as we have the ball in our hands, with time and downs, that’s all you need.”
Time and downs. That’s a line Rodgers has uttered in the past, and now it’s his turn again.
The Packers have three games left. They have time and downs.
Is that really all they need? We’ll find out.
“This team has a lot of fight, I’ll tell you that,” Hundley said. “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 are against the wall, we come out swinging. This team has a lot of fight, and it’s not over yet.”
Complete game coverage: