What began as a promising start for the Green Bay Packers in the Brett Hundley era turned into a disappointing 26-17 loss Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field.
It certainly was a tale of two halves.
Scoring on its opening drive on a spectacular 46-yard touchdown run by rookie Aaron Jones, Green Bay led 14-7 at intermission and 17-16 10 early in the fourth quarter before veteran Drew Brees demonstrated to 78,380 fans on a rainy afternoon why his bust will one day reside in Canton, Ohio, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The only thing that stopped Brees and the New Orleans offense in the second half was the game clock, with the Saints quarterback kneeling three times in victory formation on their final drive to bleed out the final two minutes.
With the loss, the Packers fall to 4-3 on the season going into their much-needed bye week. Green Bay is now one game behind 5-2 Minnesota, which defeated Baltimore in Minneapolis Sunday, in the NFC North Division. The surging Saints have now won four straight games to improve to 4-2.
The Packers defense, which intercepted Brees twice in the first quarter, wilted in the final 30 minutes of play.
“We didn’t hold up our end of the bargain,” said linebacker Clay Matthews afterward of the defense’s second-half performance.
The Green Bay offense didn’t either, generating just four first downs and a field goal to briefly take the lead.
After 30 minutes of play the Packers led 14-7 and Brees’ stats were subpar: 13 of 20, 155 yards, with no touchdowns, two interceptions, and a 49.0 quarterback rating. After 60 minutes of play, Brees’ numbers changed dramatically: 27 of 38, 331 yards, one touchdown, and an 84.4 quarterback rating.
Brees took command of the game in the second half, leading New Orleans to scores on their first four drives. Rarely under duress, Brees methodically spread the ball to seven receivers and mixed in runs by Mark Ingram (105 yards, 4.8 yard ave.) and Alvin Kamara (57 yards, 6.3 yard ave.) as the Saints ultimately racked up 485 net yards against an overmatched Packers’ defense.
Fittingly, Brees scored final touchdown that put the game out of reach, 26-17, with 4:55 remaining on a one-yard leap where he extended the ball to break the plane of the end zone.
After yielding 14 points and giving up 139 rushing yards in the first half, the New Orleans defense shut down the Packers offense in the second half. The Saints defense surrendered just a 46-yard Mason Crosby field goal early in the fourth quarter and allowed Green Bay just 80 net yards after intermission with a swarming defense that stacked the box to stop running back Aaron Jones. The Packers had just four possession in the second half (punt, field goal, punt, interception).
Hundley showed flashes of his potential in his starting debut for the injured Aaron Rodgers and scored on a 14-yard run in the second quarter to give the Packers a 14-7 lead. But the inexperienced third-year player also struggled with downfield passes in a conservative game plan that minimized a talented receiving corps of Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and Randall Cobb.
Hundley finished with an anemic 39.9 quarterback rating on 12 of 25 for a meager 87 yards.
“Don’t write us off yet,” Hundley said at his post-game press conference. “…all our goals are still in front of us.”
Green Bay next hosts rival Detroit in a key NFC North Division game on Monday, Nov. 6th.