It shouldn't have been this hard, but Packers keep hopes alive with OT win

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Forget, for now, that the Green Bay Packers had Brett Hundley at quarterback when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came to Lambeau Field on Sunday afternoon.

On a perfect December day for offensive football, the Packers blocked a punt (even if statistically what Kyler Fackrell did was not considered a block), scored a defensive touchdown on Dean Lowry's fumble recovery and sacked Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston seven times.

It all should've added up to a blowout victory, right?

Not without Aaron Rodgers.

This was another Hundley game -- and there will be at least one more next week at Cleveland before the Packers can even think about playing Rodgers -- so by definition that meant it wouldn't be easy.

Regardless of the degree of difficulty, they pulled off a much-needed victory -- 26-20 in overtime on Aaron Jones' 20-yard touchdown run on his only carry of the game.

The Packers kept their season alive, at 6-6, with four games to play despite just 84 passing yards from Hundley, who was 13-of-22 with a 48.3 passer rating. It was the Packers' fewest passing yards in a win since Week 9 of 1994, when Brett Favre was 6-of-15 for 82 yards in a 33-6 victory over the Bears.

"I’d be fine throwing for [84] yards if we win them all," Hundley said. "I promise you that. I’d be perfectly fine if we win them all. I’d throw for 50 yards."

It was enough, but just barely.

Take the fourth quarter, for example. After the Buccaneers closed to within 17-13 on a field goal with 14:31 left, the Packers went three-and-out after a pair of runs by Jamaal Williams and a broken-up slant pass for Davante Adams.

At that point, the Packers had 47 net passing yards -- and a rating of 38.6 -- against the NFL's worst pass defense.

Presented with an opportunity to take the lead -- twice -- in the final two minutes of regulation, Hundley could only manage a game-tying field-goal drive after a third-and-1 pass to Jordy Nelson (five catches for 17 yards) was stopped for no gain on the first try, and nothing on the second try from his own 38-yard line with 44 seconds left.

Yes, Rodgers was designated for return off injured reserve and practiced Saturday, but at this rate the Packers might have nothing to play for by the time Rodgers could play on Dec. 17 at Carolina -- the first game for which he's eligible, per NFL injured reserve rules.

The Packers probably needed more games like this from their special teams and defense after Rodgers broke his collarbone in Week 6. But better late than never. Fackrell's blocked punt -- which wasn't officially a block because the ball went past the line of scrimmage -- led to a short-field touchdown drive capped Williams' 1-yard run to give the Packers a 10-7 lead in the second quarter.

Lowry turned that into a 17-7 lead when he snatched the ball in midair from Winston on a strip-sack by Kenny Clark. It was the Packers' first defensive touchdown since Rodgers' injury and second of the season.

The Packers' best offense came for their rookie running backs -- Jones on his only carry of the game and Williams, who rushed 21 times for a season-best 113 yards.

"Whether you need a run or a pass, I’ve always felt that you need to do both and frankly since Aaron was injured, whether it was the day of or the day after, I made it clear that all three phases need to play better or play different and that was the difference today," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "And at the end of the day, we did what we had to do to win the game."

Clay Matthews, who had 3.5 sacks all season, had 2.5 on Sunday for his most in a game since 2014. The Packers' seven sacks was one short of their team record set in 2004.

"It keeps our hopes alive," Matthews said. "We understood very much where we were at in the season. Unfortunately, we put ourselves in this situation but we recognize this as a five-game season and playoff mentality. Very much like last year. We had to get this win. It took more than 60 minutes but we got it and we’re right on path. We have Cleveland next week, so onto Cleveland and hopefully get ourselves another one."