Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo and Justin Rogers break down the Lions' loss to the Steelers and what lies ahead against the Packers on Monday night. Detroit News
Allen Park — The Detroit Lions have been here before.
With Brett Hundley on tap to start for the Packers on Monday night in Green Bay, many Lions fans won’t have any difficulty recalling the final game of the 2011 season.
The Lions went to Lambeau Field in Week 17 jockeying for playoff position. The Packers, sitting Aaron Rodgers with the top seed in the NFC already wrapped up, started backup Matt Flynn, who torched the Lions for 480 yards passing and six touchdowns in a 45-41 Green Bay triumph. The Lions drew the Saints in an NFC wild-card playoff game and were routed 45-28.
So it’s safe to say the Lions can’t just walk into Green Bay assuming they’re going to leave with an easy win over an unproven quarterback. This team’s tortured history may suggest the opposite could be very likely.
Hundley, however, was less than impressive in his first start following Rodgers’ season-ending shoulder injury. The third-year quarterback out of UCLA was 12-for-25 for 87 yards and an interception in the Packers’ 26-17 loss to the Saints on Oct. 22. That’s on top of the three interceptions he threw one week earlier in Minnesota after taking over for Rodgers.
Still, Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy insists he’s happy with the youngster, saying the extra week of preparation the Packers have had with the bye week could be beneficial.
“Absolutely,” McCarthy said during a conference call when asked if he’s happy with Hundley’s preparation. “I really like the way the way the week’s gone. We had the extra practice, so we’ve had more time to spend on it, and he’s getting more work in with the perimeter group.”
In 2013, Rodgers missed seven games due to a broken collarbone in his non-throwing shoulder. The team was able to stay afloat with three different quarterbacks, bringing back Flynn after Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien struggled. Rodgers returned in time to win the division with a victory in Chicago in Week 17.
“I think if you look at last time, the two guys who were backing up (Rodgers) came in after training camp, so they were still learning the offense,” Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson said in a conference call with reporters Thursday. “Brett’s been here. He knows everything. Now it’s just getting enough reps with him and getting into a rhythm.”
Lions guard T.J. Lang, who will make his first return to Green Bay since signing with the Lions in the offseason, says his time with Hundley leads him to believe he’s ready to shoulder the load of leading the Packers’ offense.
“He’s a guy we always had confidence in when I was there that he could get the job done,” Lang said at practice on Thursday. “Obviously, you can’t replace Rodgers and not miss a beat, but (Hundley’s) got every ability to run the scheme and the system the way they want to.”
Hundley’s 25 throws against the Saints were a stark difference from the 33 times he was forced to throw as he tried to lead a comeback effort against the Vikings.
It’s possible those 25 throws are more in line with the kind of offense the Lions could see on Monday. Rookie running back Aaron Jones has burst onto the scene over the last three Packers games, shouldering some of the load that would typically fall to a healthy Rodgers.
Jones has rushed 62 times for 346 yards and three scores over the last four games.
That isn’t lost on the Lions defense.
“When you get a younger quarterback who hasn’t been doing it long, sometimes you lean on your running game and defense,” Lions safety Glover Quin said. “Jones is running the ball extremely well. You’ve got to think they’re going to try and run the ball to get going so the pressure is not on Hundley to win the game for them.”