I hope Mike McCarthy likes answering lots of questions about whether or not he should sign Colin Kaepernick. Because the questions are coming after a lackluster performance from his backup Brett Hundley on Monday.
Hundley was wholly unimpressive, especially having spent three years in the Packers' system and having two weeks to prepare for this game against the Lions. Multiple times, he had pretty decent pockets and decided to escape non-existent pressure, putting himself in a difficult position to make a throw.
On this play, Hundley would roll out to the right and attempt to gas a throw back to the middle. He would not complete it -- stepping up in the pocket and making the same throw probably leads to a completion. At the very least, it's a much easier throw.
Although that may not matter. Hundley missed at least one wide open play early in the game.
There were times when Hundley looked comfortable late. The game was essentially out of reach and the Packers were actually letting him cut it loose a little bit, and he marched them down for a touchdown. But the magic only lasted for about a drive and a half, with the Lions sacking him and forcing the Packers to go on fourth-and-13, a situation where they were never going to convert.
The Packers largely restricted Hundley early on -- it didn't feel like Hundley was necessarily refusing to look down the field or that he didn't have time, it just felt like they were not interested in letting him push the ball vertically. And the statistics bore it out.
Hundley didn't attempt a pass more than 10 yards down the field until the third quarter, when he hit Jordy Nelson for a 12-yard completion. It's like changing the wheels on a Ferrari and suddenly it's a Pinto.
Green Bay got some movement on their first series when Hundley had scripted plays set up for him, but a missed field goal immediately deflated the Packers' energy. Hundley would ultimately lead two touchdown drives, but they were largely in garbage time. The Lions' defense toyed with him -- the game wasn't close, but it never felt as close as the score suggested. The Lions having a 13-point lead was basically insurmountable.
McCarthy is going to get asked about the Packers potentially signing Kaepernick. I guarantee it. And it's a worthwhile question after seeing Hundley play against a divisional rival at home coming off a two-week break to prepare. The Packers are now 4-4 and dead in the water with tough defensive matchups against the Bears in Chicago, the Ravens at home and the Steelers on the road. Those are tough defenses that can pressure a quarterback in bad spots.
I've defended McCarthy's decision to stick with Hundley. The Packers drafted him and groomed him for three years, and he is the backup to Aaron Rodgers. This is what's supposed to happen when Rodgers is hurt; just because there is a big name out there doesn't mean the Packers have to change their plan. But it does not look like they are going to be immediately competitive in the NFC North unless Rodgers can magically heal his shoulder or they can upgrade the quarterback spot. Good luck with the current situation.
Don't count out Detroit yet
This was a massive win for the Lions. It was an easy win in a sense, because they were never in danger of losing. But it was massive: they are now two games back of the Vikings and would have been three games back if they don't go into Lambeau Field and get a "W."
Matthew Stafford was excellent, dropping dimes to his top two receivers, Golden Tate (more on him later) and Marvin Jones, the latter of whom catching a pair of touchdowns, including a sick first score:
Actually the second one was pretty great too:
Stafford finished the game with a 78.8 completion percentage while averaging 10.9 yards per pass attempt for the night. That is a strong effort. And let's not forget -- with Hundley, Case Keenum and Mitchell Trubisky running the other offenses in the NFC North, Stafford is clearly the best quarterback in the division.
That is a massive advantage.
The Lions also managed to avoid a punt in a football game for the first time since 1971 -- they turned the ball over once and missed a field goal, but otherwise managed to record a field goal or a touchdown on their six other drives. Detroit moved the ball easily and efficiently, although there are definitely questions about a running game that doesn't exist. Ameer Abdullah wants to be the guy for Detroit, but he fumbled twice, including once at the 1-yard line. That is not going to cut it.
The Lions have a friendly schedule though, drawing the Browns at home next week before getting the Bears in Chicago, the Vikings at home, the Ravens and Buccaneers on the road and the Bears at home to close out. 4-1 is not off the table before closing out against the Bengals (road) and Packers (home). The Vikings have a slightly tougher road -- Detroit has a good shot to make things interesting and is probably the only reasonable challenger to Minnesota in the division.
Game-changing dumb penalty
Missing your best player means you had better bring your "A" game when you show up to play football. Dumb penalties are not acceptable, and Mike Daniels, who is having a really nice season, had a really dumb penalty on the Lions' first drive. After Green Bay stopped the Lions on a third-and-long to force a punt, Daniels got mixed up with Travis Swanson and decided to hit him with a headbutt.
There was a case to be made that it was just dudes being dudes after a physical football play. ESPN's Jon Gruden even made the case that he didn't see anything happening after the play, and generally sounded disgusted with the called penalty.
But ultimately it's one of those things that wasn't necessary and the officials decided to hit Daniels with a flag.
And the worst part for the Packers? The penalty kept the drive going for Detroit and led to Matthew Stafford dropping a dime to Marvin Jones in the end zone for the Lions' first touchdown on an opening drive of the season (see above).
Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Lions
Naturally, the Lions, who have been creative on their touchdown celebrations this season, celebrated in impressive fashion, with a little Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robot action.
Tate, who has established himself as the top weapon in Detroit after coming in free agency and seeing Calvin Johnson leave, consistently makes incredible plays that you don't see coming. His toe-tap against the Packers was something that looked, well, impossible.
With Stafford throwing to the right edge of the field, Tate hauled in the pass and appeared to just go flying out of bounds on live TV. As it turns out, he made a miraculous double toe-tap to secure the ball and record a catch.
It's really startling to see how he got his toes down.
Special teams knows how to scramble
The Packers didn't do much in the first half, but they did something, at least, courtesy of kicker Mason Crosby, who managed to bang home a field goal as time expired in the second quarter. The Packers got very greedy, running a play over the middle of the field without any timeouts and the clock close to expiring, and were forced to sprint the kicking team onto the field and get a kick off at the last second.
Big ups to special teams coordinator Ron Zook, who got deserved praise from Jon Gruden on the broadcast for having his unit so prepared for that situation.
The Lions have a short week, but it's about the best short week you can possibly have. Detroit will play host to the Browns next week at 1 p.m. ET in a game they will be heavily favored to win. The Browns are terrible, and if Detroit wants to make a run in the division this is a must-win game.
The Packers have to regroup and regroup quickly -- they head to Chicago to play the Bears, who have been a frisky team to deal with at home. Mitchell Trubisky and John Fox would love nothing more than to ruin the Packers' season coming off their bye by beating Green Bay at home. Chicago isn't as explosive offensively, but they have a difficult defense to deal with for Green Bay and Hundley after a subpar effort against the Lions on Monday.