GREEN BAY – For a night, he was Don Hutson in the flesh. Nobody in the Chicago Bears secondary could defend him. Davante Adams caught more passes Thursday than any Green Bay Packers receiver in seven decades.
Not bad considering he spent the previous three days with a concussion.
“That concussion protocol is no joke,” Adams said. “It’s pretty extensive. So I had a lot of stuff to do, even today.”
Until Thursday, Adams wasn’t sure he’d be able to play what became the game of his life. In the morning, he had computerized tests to determine whether his concussion symptoms subsided. Coach Mike McCarthy said he learned Adams would be available about six hours before kickoff.
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By midnight, McCarthy sure was glad he had his No. 3 receiver.
Adams had 13 catches in the Packers 26-10 win against the Chicago Bears, the most since Don Hutson’s single-game franchise record of 14 in 1942. He tied Hutson’s 13 receptions from the same season for second-most any Packers receiver caught in one game.
“There’s nothing worse than just tying a record,” Adams half joked, “because it’s so hard to get back to it again. But it’s great. It’s amazing to be a part of something like that, and my quarterback had a lot of trust in me tonight, and a lot of faith in me. So we’ve just got to stack these times now.”
It wasn’t just the catches. Adams had a career-high 132 yards, his first 100-yard game since the 2014 divisional playoff round. For the first time in his three-year career, he also had two touchdowns.
Adams was unstoppable. He feasted on a shorthanded Bears secondary. Poor De’Vante Bausby.
When Chicago’s undrafted rookie cornerback wasn’t getting beat in the end zone, Bausby was holding Adams to prevent what would’ve been his third touchdown.
After it was over, cameras surrounded him. Adams was literally the center of attention, standing near the center of the Packers locker room. He was asked what this breakout game meant.
BOX SCORE: Packers 26, Bears 10
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He could’ve shrugged it off. Instead, Adams was honest.
“In a sense,” he said, “a statement game. I’m ready to play. I felt good, especially coming off of getting hit last week, just to show my teammates more than anything – my teammates and the coaches. I’m not worried about anybody else, other than my family, my coaches and everybody in my inner circle, because the rest of the people are going to be back and forth, whether or not they’re with you. But the people, loved ones, friends and family are the ones that are going to be there through it all.
“I just try to make sure I continue to prove to them I’m worthy of being out there catching balls.”
Such reflection was not misplaced on a night like this. Adams, a former second-round pick, has given the Packers plenty of reasons to move on. To this point in his career, he was still waiting to show the promise general manager Ted Thompson saw in him. Too slow. Too inconsistent. Fans mostly knew Adams for dropped passes.
Before Thursday, Adams had 15 catches for 218 yards through five games. Since the start of 2015, he had 65 catches and 701 yards in 21 regular-season games.
Adams hit 20 percent of that catch total and 18 percent of the yardage in 60 minutes.
"That was huge to see him come back from him being asleep on the field,” fellow receiver Randall Cobb said remembering Adams’ concussion Sunday, “to coming back with 13 catches. That’s huge. I’m just happy to see him walking, let alone have a game like that."
More than raw numbers that brought sweet relief. For Adams, it was timing. On this night, the Packers desperately needed a hero. Through one half, their offense was going nowhere.
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When their opening drive of the second half ended with quarterback Aaron Rodgers fumbling into the end zone, and Bears rookie Leonard Floyd falling on the football for a touchdown and 10-6 lead, the struggles that defined an early season seemed to be at their bleakest.
Methodically, the Packers marched 13 yards on their next drive. They faced third-and-goal at the Bears’ 5-yard line, trying to score their first touchdown of the night. Rodgers threw a jump ball in the front, right corner of the end zone, and Adams beat Bausby to give the Packers a 13-10 lead.
They never trailed again.
The touchdown unlocked something inside Adams, he said. It was a fitting play, showing his strengths. At his best, Adams uses his 39.5-inch vertical leap to beat defenders in the air.
Jump balls, Adams knows, are especially important to catch. Keeps the quarterback happy.
“Obviously, I’m motivated more than any other time to get out there and make plays,” Adams said. “Especially in a time where Aaron is continuing to come to me, he’s trusting me and it’s a potential to be a big day. I’m always going to be out there with a little extra something with me.”
It is one game. And one game doesn’t make up for 21. But there is no telling what Adams’ potential emergence could mean to an offense devoid of a consistent passing game.
It’s why Rodgers wasted no time to check whether Adams was available Thursday night. As soon as he entered the Packers locker room, Rodgers said, he found his receiver. Adams’ head phones were in, music blaring. Rodgers asked whether he could play.
Adams shot a thumbs up.
A few hours later, he was morphing into the second coming of Don Hutson. A night that was a long time coming, but arrived at the perfect time.
“This was a big game for him and his confidence,” Rodgers said. “He’s not a guy who lacks or struggles with confidence, but anytime you do it consistently – and I said it over on the sideline, but I didn’t need to – we felt good about the matchup. And when a receiver is dictating to you the routes he wants, that’s the kind of mindset you want from a guy like that, because he feels like he was not being able to be guarded for a while there, and you saw it.
“He was basically telling me, ‘Let’s try this one, or let’s do this, or let’s do this.’ And Mike was dialing up some good plays as well – especially on that drive that put us ahead – and we went to him a few times in a row with the stop, in breaker and then a post corner. It was good to get him going.”