GREEN BAY - Davante Adams smashed his helmet on Soldier Field’s frozen sideline. He was seething, borderline inconsolable, the moment he dropped his second touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers.
He knew what you were thinking. Knew what questions were coming. Knew it wasn’t the first time.
Some unfortunate déjà vu hit the Green Bay Packers wide receiver Sunday, harking back to a 2015 season Adams has no interest in reliving. Which might explain his instant outburst. The football hadn’t stopped bouncing before Adams kicked the pylon. He turned, threw his hands to his head, stunned in disbelief.
He darn near obliterated his helmet.
That’s about the time Rodgers, of all people, approached him. The Packers quarterback is known for his white-hot intensity, his unshakable standards. Rodgers knew a receiver this hard on himself needed to be soothed, not scolded.
“I just went over to him,” Rodgers said, “and said, ‘Don’t throw your helmet down like that in case we have to go out on the field. If there’s a sudden change, I don’t want you to be helmetless.’
“It got a little chuckle out of him.”
Adams needed to laugh. Beat the alternative.
In what has been a breakout season, Adams got a new test during a 30-27 victory over the Chicago Bears. What happens when things go wrong? How will Adams handle adversity? He’s about to find out Saturday when the Packers host the Minnesota Vikings.
Adams said he was able to put his two drops behind him Sunday, finish the game. Then, he said, the film review brought it all back.
Adams’ first drop — on the Packers' last drive before halftime — was easy enough to forget. Facing the sun, Adams couldn’t see the football when he turned. He didn’t know where Rodgers’ pass was until it hit his hands.
No excuse, Adams said, but it happens.
There was no sun on the Packers' opening drive of the second half. In the shadows, Adams beat Bears cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc by two steps. Rodgers’ pass slipped through his hands like soap.
That, Adams said, was harder to shake.
“I felt like the ball was in the air for 10 years,” Adams said, “and then it kind of snuck up on me, and I tried to use the body. In between body, and into the hands on the catch. I just have to make that. I’ve made it a million times.”
It’s a play Adams has made routine this season. He has 65 catches for 922 yards, second on the Packers behind only Jordy Nelson. He ranks fifth in the NFL with nine touchdowns, and would’ve tied Antonio Brown for second league-wide without Sunday’s drops.
Adams has emerged as the playmaker the Packers expected when general manager Ted Thompson selected him in the second round of a 2014 draft loaded at the wide receiver position. He has caught passes for 100 yards in a game four times, the same amount as Nelson. Twice, he has had 100 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
Coach Mike McCarthy said he wasn’t surprised by Rodgers’ unwavering trust.
“I think it just shows the confidence he has in Davante,” McCarthy said. “Hey, you can even go back to last year. Davante was struggling through some injuries and just kept getting opportunities, and rightfully so. He’s played big for us this year.
“Yes, he had two drops in Chicago, but we’re going to throw it to him again on Saturday. You can book that.”
It goes against the Rodgers narrative that evolved in recent years, the one about how receivers must earn his trust, but this is how he always has treated Adams.
Even in Adams’ deepest struggles last season, Rodgers never stopped throwing to him. Through drops, shaky routes and injuries, his faith remained rock solid. This season, it has paid off.
Now the Packers will see if Adams has taken the final step in a youngster’s development. In his rookie season, Adams plummeted after dropping a touchdown against the New England Patriots. He had his best game of the season that afternoon, catching six passes for 121 yards against a team headed for a Super Bowl title.
He had just four catches the rest of the season.
Can Adams prevent one bad week from becoming two? Can he stop the landslide before it starts?
Rodgers has no doubt.
First play of the next drive, Rodgers lofted a pass to Adams down the left sideline. It fell incomplete. Rodgers targeted Adams again on the next snap, a 10-yard comeback route. Adams broke one tackle, spun away from another for 19 yards.
“Those are going to happen,” Rodgers said of dropped passes. “Those are acceptable. Drops are part of the game. Physical mistakes are part of the game. The mental mistakes are the frustrating ones. You know the guy is as sharp mentally as they come.
“I’m going to him, and that’s not going to stop at all. The guy’s a big-time playmaker for us, and he has all the confidence in the world. A couple of drops is not going to put a dent in that.”