Ron Jaworski, in his book “The Games that Changed the Game: The Evolution of the NFL in Seven Sundays,” relayed an exchange he and Jon Gruen once had with longtime Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore. The pair of then-ESPN commentators wondered why Peyton Manning was taking all of the team’s practice reps at quarterback leading up to a game — or, to say it another way, why a backup quarterback wasn’t getting some snaps here and there.
Moore responded: “Fellas, if ’18’ goes down, we’re f***ed. And we don’t practice f***ed.”
So far, the same logic can be applied to the Green Bay Packers since Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone Oct. 15 against the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers, 0-3 since Rodgers’ injury, seem — in the words of Moore — f***ed without their best, most important player at the most important position in the sport.
Consider these numbers:
|Offensive yards per play||5.3||4.7|
|Defensive yards per play||5.3||5.9|
Those three losses since coming by a combined 35 points. The opponents have been fairly difficult (Minnesota, New Orleans, Detroit), but losses to the Saints and Lions came at Lambeau Field. A 13-point Monday night loss to Detroit — which would’ve looked worse had it not been for a last-second touchdown — coming off a bye week looks especially worrisome in Wisconsin given the extra time the team had to prepare Brett Hundley for that game.
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson offered an optimistic line of thinking while on a conference call with Chicago media this week, trusting in Hundley and the offense’s ability to play better around its quarterback.
“You gotta have urgency, but you gotta be patient,” Nelson said. “It’s nothing that, once Aaron’s out and someone steps in, it’s going to be the same. What I do remember from that year is we eventually got it going. We scored some points, we moved the ball. That’s something here, Week 3 to 4 with Brett as the starter and getting these reps in practice and stuff is an opportunity for us to really show some gains. I think that’s what we’re looking for on Sunday.”
Nelson’s confidence may wind up being proven to be founded, but Hundley hasn’t shown much yet: He’s completed 56 of 96 passes (58.3 percent) for 489 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions since Rodgers’ injury, and has eight rushes for 69 yards with two touchdowns in those three games (which indicates the Packers may not want to run him as much as could be expected for a mobile quarterback who’s struggled to throw the ball).
The Bears, though, are confident heading into Sunday based on how they feel about their team, not because of the Packers’ struggles without Rodgers.
“You don’t really look at things like that in this league,” coach John Fox said. “I think our guys understand there’s a lot of capable players. It’s not about one guy. I understand, they understand he’s a special cat. Their team probably understands that better than anybody because they’re with him everyday. But they’re still a dangerous football team.”