It happened with 7:27 left in the third quarter of the Detroit Lions’ game. Green Bay had the ball at midfield, facing a fourth down with two yards to go. The Packers couldn’t afford to turn the ball over to Matthew Stafford, who was having his way with the Packers’ defense.
Mike McCarthy correctly realized this was not the time to punt. What he dialed up was a formation consisting of Ty Montgomery to Hundley’s right, and tight end Lance Kendricks next to the left tackle. Slot receiver Randall Cobb then went in motion and was given a shovel pass of sorts as he went by in front of Hundley. Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams were decoys.
The first problem was that you, I, and the Lions knew this wasn’t going to be a pass play. Despite all of Big Mike’s words of confidence in his backup QB, his actions for three games now have been contrary to his words. No way was McCarthy going to put the biggest play of the season in Hundley’s hands.
Criticism of McCarthy’s restraints on Hundley has been universal, but as I’ve noted, McCarthy doesn’t listen and doesn’t learn. Sadly, Brett Hundley will carry the nickname “training wheels” with him forever as a result of McCarthy’s lack of trust.
Here we were, over halfway through Hundley’s third game, and McCarthy was still calling for Brett to make dink and dunk passes – broadcaster Jon Gruden even had a staffer prepare a chart showing how the short passes were being smothered by the Lions – just like the Vikes and the Saints did previously.
But back to the dagger. The Lions, of course, were hugging the line of scrimmage, ignoring any possibility of a downfield pass play. Rather than resorting to any fakery or play action, Hundley pitched the ball forward to Cobb — in full view of the Lions’ defenders — in what Jon Gruden called a jet sweep.
The Lions’ penetration precluded any possibility of Cobb going wide around end. Blocking-wise it was one on four – and the one, tight end Lance Kendricks, made things worse by fanning on his attempted block. It didn’t really matter, as safety Glover Quin, playing in the middle, got a great break when he saw the shovel pass and already had Cobb on his back, three yards behind the line of scrimmage and five yards short of the marker. Had Quin missed, THREE other defenders were there to make the stop.
You can’t blame Hundley on this. McCarthy’s play calls have always been highly predictable — even when Aaron Rodgers was on the field. Now with Hundley, he might as well have broadcast this was to be a run over a loudspeaker.
Failing to convert on this fourth down isn’t in itself proof of a bad play. But when there are four tacklers in position to stop the play for a loss, I think we can safely say it was a rotten call.
It’s a crime that such a promising season has come to ruin. And McCarthy’s fingerprints are all over the crime scene.