Adams shows he's earned Rodgers' trust
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Randall Cobb had to interject.
His rookie teammate was backed into a corner inside the Green Bay Packers' locker room. Answers were expected from Davante Adams. Demanded, really.
How did Adams know quarterback Aaron Rodgers would fake a clock-stopping spike on the Packers' game-winning touchdown drive? What tipped him off? Adams paused.
Cobb, packing a gym bag one locker over, shot a look at the rookie.
"Don't give away our secrets now," Cobb said.
Adams smiled, brushed it off.
Of course he wouldn't reveal his quarterback's signals to the outside world, the rest of the NFL included. Six games into a promising career, the Packers' second-round draft pick is learning the ropes. He flashed a veteran's maturity several times on the field Sunday — a third-down conversion here, a red zone completion there. Adams showed the same savvy at his locker after the game.
How did he know Rodgers was throwing him the football on the offense's second-to-last play?
"He does what he does," Adams said, carefully keeping his answer vague. "It's little, subtle signals and things like that. We have a million of them. You've just got to see the right thing."
Adams caught his quarterback's signal, and he interpreted it correctly.
With no timeouts and the clock ticking under 20 seconds, Rodgers motioned to kill the clock as he approached the line of scrimmage. Under 15 seconds, he took the snap. Somewhere in between, and ever so briefly, the MVP quarterback flashed another sign to his rookie receiver.
Instead of a spike, Rodgers was giving Adams the football.
Receiver Jordy Nelson, who never moved from his stance in the slot after the snap, said he had no idea a pass was coming.
"It's great to see Davante alert like that and being on the same page (with Rodgers) and making a play for us," Nelson said.
Adams said the situation never was discussed in practice. You don't plan for something as impromptu as a fake spike. It's a throwaway drill for players to run during the week. Usually, when game time comes, a fake spike is expected to be tucked quietly into the offense's back pocket.
This time, in the home of Dan Marino — who popularized the fake spike on "Monday Night Football" in 1994 — the trick play swung momentum to the Packers' sideline. On the next play, Rodgers found tight end Andrew Quarless for a touchdown with 3 seconds left. Ballgame. Green Bay escaped Miami with a 27-24 win.
It wouldn't have been possible if Green Bay's MVP quarterback and rookie receiver failed to communicate.
"It's one of those things that you don't really tell anybody what's going on," Rodgers said. "You're just yelling 'clock' and signaling 'clock,' and then right before I snapped it, I looked out to the right and they were way off outside. So I just kind of faked it and moved. Davante wasn't looking at me initially, but after he saw me, probably moving, he looked and I threw it.
"I was hoping that he knew to just get a couple (yards) and get out of bounds, but he almost ended up scoring."
The second part is harder — and more important — than it sounds.
Adams caught the ball at the 14-yard line, with just 11 seconds left. Dolphins cornerback Cortland Finnegan was 5 yards away. With open space, Adams faced a dilemma. He saw the end zone, knew he had a chance to score. The rookie also knew his team had no timeouts, and the sideline was a couple of steps to his right.
Here was the key. Adams could not be tackled inbounds. No exceptions. If the clock doesn't stop — either by touchdown or out of bounds — the Packers don't beat the Dolphins.
"As soon as the ball was snapped and I caught it, I saw how far (Finnegan) was off, and I looked up at the clock for a second and ran and got as much as I could," Adams said. "I tried to stretch out, move the ball as close to the end zone as I could. I took what was available.
"You can't be greedy. You might get into the end zone, but if you don't, the game is over. So you have to make sure you can take what you can and get out of bounds."
It was the kind of smart play Adams made throughout Sunday's game.
He started with two catches on the Packers' first two plays. From there, the rookie was a consistent target on Rodgers' radar. The quarterback went to his young receiver time after time, never shying from critical moments.
Adams finished with a career-high six catches for 77 yards. He was targeted eight times. More and more, Adams is becoming a consistent weapon in the offense.
It seems he's earned Rodgers' trust.
"He's a talented guy," Rodgers said. "I told him this week it was going to be a big week for him, a week that I think he would start to really separate himself, and he had a number of important catches for us."
More important than the numbers, Adams avoided rookie mistakes.
Last month, Adams misread a hand signal from Rodgers in Detroit. It could've been a big play against the Lions. Instead, the football sailed past him, incomplete.
With more at stake Sunday, Adams made sure he didn't miss this sign. Cobb said the play didn't help Adams earn the trust of his veteran teammates. No, Cobb said, the rookie earned their trust long ago.
"I trusted him from the beginning," Cobb said. "He's been growing week in and week out. For him to make plays in those situations, that's what we expect. It doesn't matter how much time is on the clock or what the situation is, when a ball comes your way, we've got to make a play.
"He did a great job of that tonight. He got many opportunities, and he was able to seize all of them and make the plays."
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood.