GREEN BAY — Davante Adams never played for Joe Philbin, but listening to the Green Bay Packers wide receiver talk Monday afternoon, Adams sure sounded like a kindred spirit with the team’s former offensive coordinator.
Philbin, who spent six seasons on coach Mike McCarthy’s staff before being hired as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach in 2012, would often chuckle when football conversations would get a little too hardcore Xs and Os.
“It’s not a complicated game,” Philbin — now the Indianapolis Colts’ assistant head coach and offensive line coach — was fond of saying.
And so, as backup quarterback Brett Hundley’s first NFL start was dissected from every angle Monday, as McCarthy’s game plan for his Aaron Rodgers-less offense was examined and evaluated, as the unsightly stat sheet from the Packers’ 26-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field remained ugly, Adams wasn’t interested in assigning blame or getting overly technical about what went awry.
He was certainly aware of Hundley’s numbers — he was 12 of 25 for just 87 yards with no touchdowns and one interception (39.9 rating) — and their direct correlation with his, Jordy Nelson’s and Randall Cobb’s lack of involvement in the offense Sunday. With Rodgers out indefinitely with a fractured right collarbone, Nelson had one catch for 13 yards, Adams had two catches for 12 yards and Cobb had two catches for 15 yards. Tight end Martellus Bennett had the most “productive” receiving day with two receptions for 17 yards.
“It’s a tough question to answer, as far as how to get us the ball, because I think my answer would be much too simple,” Adams said. Asked for his so-called simple answer, Adams smiled. “Throw it. Give us more chances. That’s it.”
According to ESPN Stats & Information, of Hundley’s 25 passes, only four were thrown 15 or more yards in the air. He didn’t complete any of them, and one of them, thrown late in the game to Bennett down the middle of the field, was intercepted. After the game, Hundley said the focus of the game plan was on “obviously running around. The emphasis was just making plays with my legs today. So that was pretty much, ‘1, 2, 3, and then get out and make something happen.’ That was a big emphasis.”
Adams said schematically, McCarthy can move him, Cobb and Nelson around more in formations and utilize “quick-game stuff, keep it simple. Get it to the guys who have 1-on-1s and let them beat their guy and get them the ball.” Those kinds of completions will increase Hundley’s confidence and help him get into the rhythm he never found Sunday.
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As for going farther downfield, with the starting five offensive linemen expected to finally all be simultaneously healthy after this week’s bye leading into the Nov. 6 game against Detroit, Adams said he believes Hundley is more than capable of making those throws.
“Yeah, I think he’s able to do it. I know he’s able to do it. We’ve just got to do it,” Adams said. “We just have to make sure we’re doing what we need to do to get our playmakers involved. And let them do what they do.”
He’ll get no argument from McCarthy, who said he didn’t think his approach with Hundley on Sunday was too risk-averse but acknowledged he and his coaching staff needed to get Adams & Co. more involved. Before Rodgers’ injury at Minnesota on Oct. 14, none of his three top wideouts —Nelson (19 receptions, 230 yards, six touchdowns), Adams (23-285-4) or Cobb (23-218-1) — was on pace for a 1,000-yard season as Rodgers spread the ball around, but at least they were all involved.
McCarthy also pointed to the Packers’ productivity on the ground Sunday. Rookie running back Aaron Jones carried 17 times for 131 yards and Hundley ran three times for 44 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown scramble.
“When you call a football game, you have to get the ball to your playmakers. And we didn’t get that done,” McCarthy admitted. “Jordy Nelson, Davante, Marty, Randall Cobb, those guys have got to touch the ball. We didn’t get that done.”
Asked about the notion his game plan didn’t show much faith in Hundley’s ability to make the necessary throws, McCarthy replied “I can understand” why people might’ve surmised that but insisted it was a function of the offense running only 50 plays. He also pointed to Hundley’s “time clock” with the receivers being off, since they’ve scarcely worked together, and said that on several play-action passes, Hundley’s footwork and execution were fine but ill-timed protection breakdowns wrecked those plays.
At the same time, McCarthy said he warned Hundley the scrutiny will continue to be intense, just as he said it was on Rodgers early in his time as the starter.
“He started in ’08 and you guys were on his (expletive) until we won a Super Bowl. Then once he wins a Super Bowl, now he’s got to play that way all the time. It’s just part of the deal here, and you’ve just got to remember where he’s playing quarterback at,” McCarthy said. “That’s real, that’s the reality. But I feel the same way today as I did going into the week. I know this young man, I believe in him. That’s the direction we’re going.
“Was the game plan as big as it was the week before (when Rodgers started)? Absolutely not. And frankly, it’s going to get smaller. We need to be more creative and make sure we’re giving him the things that he needs.”