MINNEAPOLIS -- This is 2013 all over -- and maybe worse.
This time, it might be up to Brett Hundley -- or whoever else ends up playing quarterback for coach Mike McCarthy -- for the duration. Rodgers broke his collarbone after a hit from Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr in the first quarter of Sunday’s 23-10 loss at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Four years ago, Rodgers cracked his left collarbone and missed seven starts. After weeks of will-he-or-won’t-he return, Rodgers came back for the regular-season finale at Chicago -- a game the Packers won on Rodgers’ last-minute touchdown pass to Randall Cobb that gave them the NFC North title.
This time, it’s the collarbone on Rodgers’ right side -- his throwing side -- which is why the Packers said he could miss the rest of the season.
Matt Flynn, the quarterback who kept the Packers afloat in 2013, most likely isn’t walking through the door. Although he’s only 32 years old, Flynn hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2014 -- his last year in Green Bay as a backup.
Hundley, 24, the only other quarterback on the active roster going into Sunday’s game, became the first Packers quarterback not named Aaron Rodgers to throw a touchdown pass since Flynn’s last one in Week 16 of the 2013 season.
The third-year pro played the first meaningful regular-season action of his career. After a rough start -- he threw an interception his first pass of the game -- he settled in and got a few things accomplished, albeit with significant field-position help thanks to a couple of takeaways (Clay Matthews’ 67-yard fumble return and Damarious Randall’s 14-yard interception return).
Hundley stepped up in the pocket and found a wide-open Davante Adams for a 14-yard touchdown after Matthews’ return. He later hit Jordy Nelson on the back-shoulder throw that Rodgers has perfected for a 26-yard gain to set up a field goal after Randall returned the Case Keenum pass that linebacker Blake Martinez tipped.
However, with the Packers down by 10 points in the fourth quarter, Hundley got picked off again when it appeared he didn’t see safety Harrison Smith underneath on a throw for Nelson. He finished with 157 yards passing on 18-of-33 with one touchdown and three interceptions.
The Packers went 2-4-1 without Rodgers, 33, in 2013. Flynn was the third option after Seneca Wallace got hurt and Scott Tolzien got benched. The journeyman backup managed to pull out a tie against the Vikings in relief of Tolzien and then went 2-2 as a starter before Rodgers returned for the regular-season finale. The Packers’ season ended a week later with a home wild-card playoff loss against the 49ers.
The Packers were 5-2 when Rodgers broke his left collarbone in 2013. They were 4-1 entering Sunday’s game at Minnesota thanks to some lights-out play from Rodgers, who was 12-2 with 37 touchdowns and five interceptions in the 14 games prior to Sunday.
The problem this time around isn’t just Rodgers; the Packers have been ravaged by injuries. Already without three of their top four defensive backs (Kevin King, Davon House and Morgan Burnett) entering the game, they lost cornerback Quinten Rollins (ankle) during the game. They also lost left guard Lane Taylor (ankle, knee) and both of their starting tackles against the Vikings when Bryan Bulaga (concussion) and David Bakhtiari (hamstring) dropped out. It was the first time all season that Bulaga and Bakhtiari had played together.
It’s not like they have an unstoppable running game for Hundley to rely on, either. McCarthy tried to split series between Ty Montgomery (playing his first game since he broke multiple ribs last month) and rookie Aaron Jones, and neither found much of a rhythm or room to run.
The Packers have relied heavily on Rodgers all season. Entering Week 6, they had the second-highest dropback percentage in the NFL at 71 percent, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Maybe the outlook won’t appear to gloomy when the sting of this day wears off, but if the Packers can’t beat with a team quarterbacked by Keenum, who was without his best receiver (Stefon Diggs), then maybe this will be even worse than 2013.