Lambeau Field hosted the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings, two teams with very different seasons. The Vikings lost their star rookie running back early and their journeyman quarterback, but that is really it. The defense has been a force and has been very healthy. Meanwhile, the Packers were limping through a hard season. Since the Packers were eliminated from playoff contention last week, there was some looking forward to next year. Here are the Week 16 Green Bay Packers takeaways.
Hundley Not Growing Fast Enough
Brett Hundley continued to underwhelm in home games. Hundley was too slow on seeing the play unfold. He sees the open guy, but hesitates a split second before releasing the ball. As a result, Hundley threw two interceptions in the game. The first one was directed at Lance Kendricks on a red zone play. Kendricks flashed open, but by the time Hundley threw the ball, Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo were both between Hundley and Kendricks.
The second pick came as time was running out. Hundley was moving around in pocket, but released a sidearm throw toward the sideline that was intercepted by Smith. Again, Hundley stood tall and moved some to extend the play, but waited far too long.
Hundley did show some improvement in staying in the pocket. He stepped up well. He had been drifting backward early in the year. He even made of few of those little step forward, step back plays Aaron Rodgers has perfected.
This sort of small improvement would be great if discussing a rookie backup. Hundley has been watching and practicing in this system for three years now.
Red Zone Offense
The Packers had the ball down 13-0 late in the game. The Vikings did not move the ball with any sort of prowess. The Vikings had field goals on drives of 39 yards and five yards. The touchdown drive was 68 yards and the other field goal was 62 yards. Still, Minnesota had four three-and-outs and five drives that did not move at least 20 yards.
With this, the Packers two red zone trips truly damaged this team. The Packers got inside the red zone right before the end of the first half. Then, on a third and three from the Vikings 15 yard line, Hundley threw his first interception. A touchdown would have made it 10-7 at the half. Even a field goal would have made it a one score game.
The Packers also found themselves in the red zone in the fourth quarter. This started with a first down at the Vikings 20 with 11:26 left in the game. The score was still 13-0. After two runs by Jamaal Williams, Hundley took the ball and threw to Kendricks over the middle again. This time, Hundley hit Kendricks in the hands and Kendricks dropped a pass that would have been enough for a first down. Instead, the Packers had to go for it on fourth down.
After calling a time out, Hundley attempted to throw a back shoulder pass to Michael Clark in the end zone. It looked like Trae Waynes bumped Clark early, but Clark also short-armed the play and did not get his hands on the ball.
Two drives inside the Vikings red zone led to zero points. In a game that was 13-0 late in the contest, this was a key stat.
Defense Did Not Fall Flat
The Packers defense has been the second largest conversation starter among Packers fans this year. The defense is in the bottom third of almost all metrics. Still, this team gave up just 3.4 yards per carry (33 carries for 112 yards). Case Keenum has been a second-tier MVP candidate, but had a very average showing on Saturday, finishing 14 of 25 for 139 yards and a touchdown. He had a few plays where Packers players had chances on the ball, but no damage was done.
The Packers hit Keenum several times, including three sacks. Kenny Clark was all over the field. He finished with five total tackles and two sacks. Reggie Gilbert got in on the hits as well, and although he did not get a sack or a tackle he applied abundant pressure. Dean Lowry had some pass rush and made a great play on an attempted Vikings screen pass. Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan both finished with double digit tackles.
The Packers actually out-gained the Vikings on Saturday (239-236). Both teams were also four of 15 on third downs. For a team that has been terrible in the red zone, the defense only allowed one touchdown on three red zone trips.
Injuries has to be the single largest story of this game; the list of players missing was terrible. The Packers started off on offense without Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and Bryan Bulaga. Jason Spriggs left after just one play and did not return. Then Jordy Nelson and Richard Rodgers left as well. The game turned into an attempt to get the ball to Trevor Davis and Jeff Janis. Backup running back Aaron Jones also left and did not return.
On defense, things were not better. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry did not play. Beyond this, Damarious Randall, in a revival season, did not play. Josh Jones joined the team of walking wounded stalking the Packers sideline. Josh Hawkins and Lenzy Pipkins figured prominently in a defense the held the Vikings to just 16 points.
Painful loss. Not as bad as being eliminated from the playoffs last weekend, but bad. With all these injuries, the Packers were still in this game in the fourth quarter. Against a very healthy Vikings team, just a little bit of offense would have gone a long way.
The next step is evaluating these players and seeing what the depth will look like and where this team will need to look in the draft and free agency. The cautious nature of the play calling might reflect some of the self-scouting as well. Many of these coaches are going to need to start reflecting hard on their basic philosophies going forward. Many of them will likely be doing so while looking for new jobs.
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