Week 7 Recap: Packers Can't Capitalize on Strong Start

The New Orleans Saints entered Sunday’s contest on something of a hot streak. Winners of three straight, they had outscored their opponents by a blistering 106-51 margin. Quarterback Drew Brees had been especially hot, completing 71 percent of his passes and tossing seven touchdown passes against two interceptions, his only two picks of the year.

With that information in mind, the Packers could very well have felt quite good about themselves going into the half leading 14-7, having kept the Saints from the end zone and forced Brees into two interceptions.

They shouldn’t have. The Packers scored exactly zero points off the Saints’ two turnovers, meekly going three and out on both possessions following the turnovers. Two golden opportunities to bury the Saints early went by the wayside, and when New Orleans inevitably rallied in the second half, the Packers had already used up whatever margin for error they may have had.

The Saints were probably going to win this game the second Anthony Barr decided to wrap up Aaron Rodgers despite a pass already being on its way to Martellus Bennett, but the Packers didn’t make it any easier on themselves with unaggressive play calling that frequently put them in second and third and long situations. What’s more, in those situations the Packers frequently ran plays well short of the first down marker, no more glaringly than on a strategically important third down in the fourth quarter.

Trailing by just two points, the Packers were in great position to put serious pressure on the Saints with their first drive of the fourth quarter. But facing a 3rd-and-9 from their own 11-yard line, the Packers sent four receivers out on routes that all came up short of the line to gain. Martellus Bennett made a five yard catch, the Packers punted, and eight plays later Drew Brees put the game away with a quarterback sneak.

Brett Hundley is nowhere near the quarterback Aaron Rodgers is. He obviously can’t be asked to do the things that Rodgers does, nor should he be expected to elevate a team the way Rodgers does. But it seemed on Sunday the Packers were committed to hiding Hundley at all costs. It largely kept Hundley from making mistakes, but it may also have kept him from actually being a productive player.

Mike McCarthy is right. We absolutely should put this one on the head coach. The Packers are going to live and die with Hundley if they’re to preserve any hope of a playoff run if Rodgers ever returns. The best they can do is actually put Hundley in a position to actually live up to that kind of expectation, and McCarthy didn’t do that this week.

Four and Out

1 - Brett Hundley wasn’t great, but he ended up in some pretty tough situations too. The Packers frequently ended up in long third down situations. Five of their last six third down attempts required them to gain six yards or more. If Hundley is to have any chance at success going forward, Mike McCarthy has to get him into more favorable third down situations.

2 - Ty Montgomery may not have a role on offense any more. What does Montgomery do well that Aaron Jones does not do better? Jones is at least as capable of a receiver and his speed and acceleration make him a far more dangerous runner. Montgomery was a good soldier for the Packers in 2016, enduring a mid-season position switch and the added pressure that came with expanded responsibilities, but there’s no question he has been surpassed by Jones. It will be interesting to see how the Packers deploy him going forward.

3 - The Packers’ defense seems built to handle players like Mark Ingram. Though he ended up with 110 total yards from scrimmage (105 rushing, 5 receiving), Ingram didn’t really damage the Packers all that much, though he did help the Saints bleed massive amounts of time off the clock. Blake Martinez and company largely kept Ingram bottled up, save for a 23-yard scamper and his 12-yard touchdown run. Alvin Kamara did much more decisive damage, gashing the Packers for 107 yards from scrimmage on just 14 touches.

4 - Blake Martinez has been a tackling machine. With 12 solo tackles on Sunday, Martinez has 46 through the first seven weeks of the season. Since 2001 (the year tackles became an official statistic), only Desmond Bishop recorded more in the first seven weeks, piling up 53 in 2011.