EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Occasionally, Randall Cobb would approach teammate Davante Adams on the sideline Sunday and say a number. There were times Adams was eight away. Or five away. Or three.
Adams finished two catches from breaking the Green Bay Packers' single-season reception record of 112 that Sterling Sharpe set in 1993. With 111 catches this season after Sunday’s 44-38 overtime win over the New York Jets, Adams’ next reception will tie Sharpe’s 25-year-old record. The one after that will put him alone in the record books.
“Cobb mentioned it a couple times,” Adams said. “I honestly wasn’t thinking about it too much, especially when the game started getting the way it did. I was worried about other things. It’s in the back of your mind, but we’ll see if we can take care of that next week.”
Adams had 71 yards on his 11 catches, giving him 1,386 yards this season. He’s 133 yards from breaking Jordy Nelson’s single-season record of 1,519 in 2014. Adams has reached 133 yards or more in three games this season, and 132 yards in another. He had 140 yards on nine catches earlier this season at the Detroit Lions, whom the Packers host in their finale.
Adams’ game-winning touchdown catch also gave him 13 this season. With two more touchdowns and those 114 yards, Adams would be the first player in the Packers’ 100-season history with 100 catches, 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns in a season.
Though he wouldn’t have minded setting a franchise record Sunday, Adams acknowledged it’d be special to do it in front of Packers fans.
“I mean, I would have loved to do that today,” he said, “but being in front of the home fans, it’ll definitely mean more.”
When Kyler Fackrell twisted around teammate Fadol Brown following a strong upfield pass rush and then brought down Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, Fackrell came a step — no, a half step — closer to a season-long goal: 10 sacks.
By taking down Darnold early in the first quarter, Fackrell got to 9.5 takedowns.
He now has one more opportunity to get to a magic number for pass rushers in the league.
“I’d really love to get to double-digit sacks — that’s still definitely there in front of me,” Fackrell said. “And obviously wins. Ending up 7-8-1 is not where we want to be but it’s better than 5-10-1. We’d just love to get that feeling of winning around. It kind of sucks the energy out of the room when you’re kind of losing as much as we have been. It’s been tough.”
The third-year pro has put together by far a career-best season with not just his sacks, but 11 other tackles for loss and hits on opposing quarterbacks. He has taken advantage of more playing time in first-year defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s system and has recorded at least a half sack in six of his 15 games, including two games in which he notched three.
He needs just a half more to get 10. Nick Perry was the last Packers pass rusher to get to double digits, with 11 in 2016.
Through Sunday only 17 players have gotten to 10 sacks this season, six of whom are considered linebackers: Von Miller of Denver with 14.5; Khalil Mack of Chicago with 12.5, and Dee Ford of Kansas City, Ryan Kerrigan of Washington, Bradley Chubb of Denver and T.J. Watt of Pittsburgh all with 12.
“It’s been a tough one,” Fackrell said of his season. “I’ve had more success than the previous two years but obviously, I don’t know. I’m glad to be having some success but it’s never fun when you’re kind of losing as much as we have been. Obviously the playoffs, the Super Bowl is everybody’s end game at the beginning of the year and the fact that’s no longer a possibility, that’s tough.”
And as for the season finale against Detroit, the goal of 10 remains within reach, which would mean something quite simple for Fackrell: “It’s really just about continuing to improve and getting better.”
During training camp, cornerback Tramon Williams was part of a defense that included Kevin King, Davon House, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels, Perry, Muhammad Wilkerson, Jake Ryan and Jermaine Whitehead.
In the Week 16 victory over the Jets, he was the only one still standing.
Pettine has had to patch together a starting lineup that features backups except for Williams, inside linebacker Blake Martinez and outside linebacker Clay Matthews.
The inconsistency was evident in the play of rookie cornerbacks Tony Brown and Josh Jackson, who one minute were making a play and the next getting burned. Pettine had to blitz to get pressure on the quarterback and he had to go another week without a turnover.
“It’s kind of a normal right now,” said Williams, who has started all 15 games. “It’s not like we’re holding anything together; it’s what we’ve been doing all year, different guys coming in and out of the lineup because of injury.”
Pettine has had to shuffle players around and rely on some who did not get a lot of practice reps during the week. At any given time, he might have had four or five rookies on the field at the same time, only one or two of whom have played regularly.
Darnold completed 24 of 35 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns, but somehow the defense kept the Jets out of the end zone on their final four possessions.
Williams said the most difficult part of the shuffling has been finding yourself preparing for one thing and then suddenly having to defend something else because an injury has occurred and you’re in a new position.
It happened Sunday when first-round pick Jaire Alexander got hurt and rookies Brown and Jackson wound up filling the void.
“You don’t stop doing what you’re doing physically, but mentally you stop doing what you’ve been doing all week long,” Williams said. “You get a look that you’re going to get and then you get into a game and you get thrown into a different place where it becomes more of a challenge.”
Running backs Kapri Bibbs and Lavon Coleman were both active Sunday but were limited to special teams play.
That meant running back Jamaal Williams had to play almost the entire game, appearing in 86 of the exhausting 91 plays. Fullback Danny Vitale filled in when Williams was out and the Packers needed a back.
Five players did not miss a snap: quarterback Aaron Rodgers and offensive linemen David Bakhtiari, Corey Linsley, Lucas Patrick and Bryan Bulaga. Adams chipped in with 87 plays.
“I told the players in the locker room before they took the field, you should never ever take for granted the opportunity that you get to compete and play this game,” interim coach Joe Philbin said. “So, I think great teams understand that, great organizations understand that. That's kind of my philosophy on the whole thing.
“These are football players. That's what they're paid to do."