Adams could be wild card in rematch
Four months later, the decision to not challenge Richard Sherman continues to follow the Green Bay Packers.
The game plan for the regular-season opener against Seattle never called for Aaron Rodgers to avoid throwing to the right side of the field. The goal was to line Jordy Nelson up on the left side, challenging Seattle to bring the shutout cornerback over to match him.
Only the Seahawks didn't bite.
"We're a no-huddle offense and my thought was, and I told Jordy in the game plan, just line up on the left side," McCarthy said Monday. "We thought Richard would come over there and play him on the left side. It didn't happen, and that's how the game sorted out and things like that, and the ball went where it went was just really how the game was played.
"There was never a 'Don't throw right' in the game plan."
Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn was content in keeping his All-Pro cornerback stationed on the left side of the defense where he shut down Packers receiver Jarrett Boykin, who wasn't targeted once on 49 offensive snaps.
It was a microcosm for the Packers' lethargic night. The offense struggled to establish any momentum playing half the field. Rodgers finished with 189 passing yards and his second-lowest passer rating of the season (81.5) in the 36-16 loss.
Green Bay has another chance against Sherman and Seattle's top-ranked defense in Sunday's NFC championship game. The venue remains the same — the loud and raucous CenturyLink Field — but the Packers believe they are a different team now than when they were humbled on Sept. 4.
For starters, the offense is more multifaceted. The Packers have done a better job during the second half of the season incorporating different formations to keep defenses off-balance. A criticism of the Packers' play-calling earlier this season was that the no-huddle made the offense too dependent on a zebra package of three receivers, one tight end and one running back.
"We definitely have to be able to open up the playbook, switch up personnel," tight end Andrew Quarless said. "Even Coach talked about … I think our approach is way different going into it this game as far as the offense, schematically. We're looking forward to it."
The calls aren't the only thing that's changed. The Packers reshuffled some of their personnel, as well. The biggest adjustment came at the end of September when rookie receiver Davante Adams usurped Boykin for the No. 3 job.
Adams could be the wild card against Seattle. Working against Dallas nickel cornerback Sterling Moore, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound receiver broke out of a month-long slump in Sunday's 26-21 win over the Cowboys with seven catches for 117 yards and a touchdown.
On Monday, the Packers weren't giving away any secrets. When asked if they'll attack Sherman more, Nelson said that's up to the coaches and the game plan, though he feels confident the team has "more threats I think now than we did Week 1."
A part of that has to do with Adams, who finished third on the team in receiving with 38 catches for 446 yards and three touchdowns. He broke out for 121 yards against New England on Nov. 30, but went quiet over the next four games (four catches for 29 yards).
He looked hungry for redemption Sunday when shredding Moore for a 46-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
"I feel like I needed that every game, but that's not the way things go," Adams said. "I'm just doing the best that I can to make sure that I'm staying consistent with how I'm running my routes and everything."
Adams took nine snaps in the opener against Sherman's coverage. A second-round pick in May's NFL draft, the former Fresno State standout got to know the three-time All-Pro a little during a pre-draft visit to Seattle.
It didn't take long for him to learn of Sherman's gift for gab. So when the cornerback wasn't talking much during the opener, Adams asked why he was so quiet.
Sherman's response? "There's nothing to talk about."
Fair enough, but if he decides to speak up Sunday, Adams says bring it on.
"I like to egg it on," Adams said. "If you want to talk, I feel like you can use that to your advantage because guys get to talking and you make a play on them and it kind of shuts them down. You can physically keep talking after that but you can't really have the same feeling behind it if your guy is getting some numbers on you at the time while you're trying to do all that talking. It's not as easy to do."
If Adams wanders onto Sherman's island, Nelson said he believes the rookie receiver will be "ready for that matchup." If not, then he'll likely be lining up across from either Byron Maxwell or nickel cornerback Tharold Simon, who started in Saturday's 31-17 win over Carolina with Maxwell dealing with an illness.
The Panthers put up big numbers in Simon's coverage. All 10 passes thrown in the second-year cornerback's direction were caught for 114 total yards and two touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus.
Both touchdowns belonged to Kelvin Benjamin, along with the rest of his seven catches for 75 yards. When asked how Simon played Monday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters: "It was a hard night."
The receivers know that whomever lines up across from Sherman must make the most of it. The other two need to take advantage.
"You look at it all across the board, study them because you never know what they'll do," Nelson said. "There's different ways, I mean even if you move into the slot on Sherman's side he'll come in and guard you every once in a while. You have to be prepared, especially around playoff time, everyone will do what they need to do to get to the Super Bowl. We'll study them all."
McCarthy said he re-watched the Seattle game Monday morning. There were positives on the film, but also a handful of reminders of where things went awry — Bryan Bulaga's knee injury; Cliff Avril's third-quarter sack of Rodgers on fourth-and-5; the strip sack of Rodgers in the fourth quarter that resulted in a safety.
Everyone has a job Sunday. The Packers' offensive line, which has started 15 games together this season, must keep the pocket clean for Rodgers, who's dealt with a strained calf injury the past three games.
Meanwhile, it's up to the receivers to get separation from a suffocating Seattle secondary that allowed only 185.6 passing yards per game this season.
This time, there might not be any avoiding Sherman.
"Aaron's going to do what he does and go through his progression," Nelson said. "We're going to be put in a position to make plays and whatever plays we need to make to win the game. That's what it's going to come down to. It doesn't matter who we throw at, who makes the plays whatever. When it comes to playoff time it's about winning the game and moving on to the next game."
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