ARLINGTON, Texas – Davante Adams knew the play would work. Off the snap, the Green Bay Packers receiver beat cornerback Jourdan Lewis. He was open in the end zone, with enough window to complete a comeback, but Aaron Rodgers’ pass was too low.
It fell incomplete with 21 seconds left Sunday in another thriller against the Dallas Cowboys. The Packers already were in position to tie with a field goal. On the road, they wanted a touchdown.
Standing back near the 12-yard line, Rodgers said he considered calling a different play. Adams persuaded him to stick with the back-shoulder fade down the left sideline.
For 10 days, Adams had shown nothing but grit and determination, working his way back from a hospital bed in Green Bay to the end zone at AT&T Stadium.
No reason Sunday’s final 21 seconds should be any different.
“‘'Te' came back and said, ‘Call it again,’” Rodgers said. “With his eyes, he just said, ‘Throw a better ball.’”
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Rodgers threw a perfect ball, and Adams did the rest. He leaped over Lewis, tapped both feet on the turf after spinning to the ground and tossed the football into a sea of blue and silver after his 12-yard touchdown sealed a 35-31 victory.
On its own, Adams’ catch was the play of Sunday’s game. It highlighted his seven catches for 66 yards, including another touchdown on the Packers' opening drive. Considering what happened 10 days earlier, Adams’ performance felt a little more supernatural.
“The resurrection of Davante,” teammate Randall Cobb said as he bent over at his locker, tying his shoes. “He came back.”
Ten days ago, Adams was maybe the only one who could have predicted he would play Sunday.
He took a vicious hit to his helmet from Chicago Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan in the third quarter of the Packers' previous game, resulting in Trevathan’s one-game suspension. Adams, speaking about the hit for the first time publicly, said he remembered the collision.
He even watched the replay.
“I recall everything,” Adams said. “I had a brief moment where I was a little loopy out there, and didn’t really remember things until I got into the hospital, and things started coming back to me and I felt good. No headaches or anything throughout the week, and I obviously felt like I was able to come out and perform at a high level.”
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The NFL initially suspended Trevathan two games, but it was reduced to one after appeal. He will not play Monday night when the Bears host the Minnesota Vikings.
Adams said he received an apology from Trevathan in a text message after the game, which he presumably accepted.
“I wouldn’t say he’s a dirty player at all,” Adams said. “Over the week, you hear a lot about different people’s inputs. It’s definitely unnecessary. You don’t want those type of hits in the game. He’s not that type of guy.
“It was a mistake, and I guess that’s why they allowed him to appeal."
To play Sunday, Adams had to meet coach Mike McCarthy's deadline to clear the concussion protocol: Saturday afternoon when the Packers' plane left Green Bay. He cleared with plenty of time to spare. Adams said doctors gave him the green light Friday afternoon.
But it was apparent early in the week Adams would be available to play against the Cowboys. He practiced Wednesday, and was back on the field in pads Thursday after showing no ill effects.
“Ever since he came back,” offensive lineman Lane Taylor said, “he looked normal. He looked like he was ready to go. I was surprised he was even at work. He looked dialed in, focused all week. He did a good job.”
Inside that hospital room, perhaps only Adams could have thought playing in Dallas was a possibility.
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Certainly, a game-winning touchdown seemed far-fetched after Adams was carted off Lambeau Field.
“Not a chance,” Taylor said. “After seeing that hit? I would have thought there’s no way, but obviously he passed his concussion test, and everything’s good.”
Before deciding to play Sunday, Adams said he considered his long-term health. In 2017, concussions are nothing to take lightly. The league has implemented rigorous testing to prevent players from returning to the field before they’re ready.
“You always consider it,” Adams said, “but there’s no point in sitting out when you feel great. You’re not going to keep taking DayQuil if the cough is gone. I felt great, and it was something I was able to do.”
Adams got involved early Sunday. On the Packers' first play, Rodgers completed a 7-yard pass to Adams. The drive ended seven plays later when Adams caught a 10-yard pass over his shoulder in the same end zone he’d later catch his game-winning touchdown.
Adams suspected Rodgers got him involved early, allowing him to find a rhythm in the game.
“I was able to kind of exhale a little bit,” he said.
By game’s end, Adams was able to celebrate.