Davante Adams unaware of flirtation with Packers history during 14-catch outburst
MINNEAPOLIS - The math had long since eluded Davante Adams, faded in the ever-growing album of highlights, by the time he streaked down the right sideline in Sunday’s fourth quarter, leaving Minnesota Vikings cornerback Holton Hill in his wake.
Fourteen of almost anything is a lot for an NFL receiver. It’s a game of four quarters and four downs. It’s six points here, a 2-point conversion there. A receiver can have four catches, as Green Bay Packers teammate Marquez Valdes-Scantling had Sunday, and consider it a good game. Fourteen targets is a lot. Fourteen catches does not compute.
So Adams was unaware of the math as he tracked Aaron Rodgers’ pass in flight. He did not know the history as Rodgers’ final pass to him settled into his hands 40 yards downfield. It wasn’t until after the game, as the Packers shook hands with the Minnesota Vikings after a 43-34 opening win at U.S. Bank Stadium, that Rodgers let Adams know what he’d done.
That final catch, his 14th against an overmatched Vikings secondary, tied legendary receiver Don Hutson for most in a single game in Packers history.
“What a beautiful game that he played today,” Rodgers said.
And it was. This was a career day from one of the NFL’s elite receivers. Adams didn’t just have those 14 catches, tying a record Hutson set in 1942. He also had 156 yards, almost matching the 160 yards combined from Vikings stars Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook. He had two touchdown catches, the same number Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins threw.
The Packers do not win without Adams on Sunday. They certainly do not post anywhere near those 43 points, more than they scored in any game of Matt LaFleur’s first season as head coach in 2019.
Fourteen. The NFL single-game record is 20, set by Terrell Owens in 2000. For a brief moment, it seemed Adams could make a run at that mark, not necessarily because he had 13 catches after three quarters, but because the Vikings could not cover him. Adams did whatever he wanted against Hill and Mike Hughes, the Vikings pair of young corners. The remarkable thing about his 14 catches was that they came on only 17 targets. If Rodgers was throwing to him, Adams was catching it.
And yet it wasn’t enough. Not for a perfectionist, and that’s precisely what Adams expects, what the Pro Bowl receiver demands. Fourteen catches, and Adams still ruminated on the three passes he did not catch.
“I suck for that,” Adams said, and it wasn’t entirely clear if he was kidding or not. “I'm still beating myself up for two of them.”
There was the incompletion on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Adams ran a shallow slant, beating Hill off the line of scrimmage but couldn’t complete the catch.
Then there was the potential 11-yard reception by the sideline on first down, when Adams appeared to drag his left toe before stepping out of bounds. The play was reviewed, and officials ruled Adams did not secure the football before lifting his toe. It was close, and Adams kept checking the big video screen replay after replay inside U.S. Bank Stadium, but Adams did not complain about the call.
“I would tease him probably on the bus here in a little bit,” Rodgers said, “about that slight little bobble at the end of the first half. It would’ve been the 15th.”
It isn’t the first time Adams threatened to break Hutson’s single-game record. In 2016, Adams caught 13 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns against the Chicago Bears. Judging by the Packers’ passing game for most of Sunday, it might not be the last time Adams threatens Hutson’s record this season. Fourteen catches, and nobody else in the Packers had more than four. Seven targets, and nobody else had more than six. One was MVS. The other was Aaron Jones.
Adams was the foundation for Rodgers completing 32-of-44 passes with 364 yards, four touchdowns and a 127.5 passer rating. When Rodgers threw to Adams, he had a 144.12 rating. He had a 114.43 rating in 27 passes to anyone else. Rodgers was good Sunday. Adams was great.
That chemistry isn’t coincidence. Asked when he knew Sunday would be special, Adams answered swiftly: “I’d say probably on Friday.” Adams and Rodgers meet each Friday to go over route concepts, with the quarterback wanting to hear which plays his top receiver prefers. Rodgers said the traditional Friday meeting started with former top receiver Jordy Nelson, transitioning to Adams when Nelson left following the 2017 season.
The most impressive part of those 14 catches, Rodgers said, was how naturally they came within the offense.
“I knew he was getting the ball,” Rodgers said. “I didn’t feel like I was force-feeding him today, he was just in positions to make a number of catches and he obviously made a bunch of plays.”
Adams’ final catch came on his final target with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. For five minutes, Adams flirted with history. The Packers would finish the drive two snaps later on Aaron Jones’ 5-yard touchdown run, eschewing a target to get Adams the record.
Rodgers had no regrets not throwing one more time to Adams. Records are made to be broken, but only naturally, he said. Already up big in the fourth quarter, a 15th reception would have been nothing more than decorative. By then, Adams’ game-changing day was complete.
Regardless, Adams knew the math at the end. Great as he was, he finished one short of standing alone in the record books. He’ll keep the passes he didn’t catch in mind.
It’s what makes him elite.
“It’s great company to be in,” Adams said. “Wish I could have broken it.”