Through mistakes and lessons learned, Packers rookie Romeo Doubs gains Aaron Rodgers' trust and confidence
GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers has played with a long line of receivers throughout his career. He's done so with guys like Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. His trust is not easily gained and his confidence in a receiver comes typically through toil and tears.
But rookie Romeo Doubs has gained both, in short order. That was never more evident than Sunday, in the Green Bay Packers' 27-24 overtime win over the New England Patriots. Twice, Doubs made mistakes that could have given the Patriots an opening to win. But each time, Rodgers returned to the fourth-round draft pick, giving him an opportunity to get the Packers back in the game. And each time, Doubs responded well.
BOX SCORE: Packers 27, Patriots 24 (OT)
TURNING POINT: Key moment in Packers' victory was a crucial third-down pass from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb
On the Packers' second offensive play of the game, Rodgers swung a pass left to Doubs, a design to get the speedy receiver in space down the sideline. But it was a bad pass, something Rodgers himself owned, and led to a fumble.
“That was not a good throw,” Rodgers said after the game. “Nice catch by (Doubs), almost wish he dropped it. I actually kind of screwed up that one in my head when I was calling it and I tried to adjust, actually I made the right adjustment. But I threw the ball much more inside than I wanted. He needs to just take the ball to the ground. We knew that team is real good at punching the ball out.”
Doubs was forced to catch the outside throw with his fingertips. Before he had a chance to get a grip on the ball, Jack Jones punched the ball out and recovered it for the Patriots.
Doubs, who would finish with five receptions on eight targets, for 47 yards and a touchdown, wouldn’t receive another target until midway through the third quarter. His 16-yard sideline catch kicked off a field goal drive. Then in the fourth quarter, Rodgers went his way again for a milestone pass.
The 13-yard back-shoulder throw to the end zone is a Rodgers staple, patented through years of service with receivers like the aforementioned Nelson, Cobb and Adams. It’s the first thing the offense works on each day in practice and a throw in this game that Rodgers was hesitant to make.
SILVERSTEIN COLUMN: Aaron Rodgers has been just average this season, and that could be seen as encouraging for 3-1 Packers
LAFLEUR CHALLENGE:Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur said he regrets 'emotional decision' to challenge Romeo Doubs' dropped touchdown in 4th quarter
“I told him during the week, ‘I don’t want you guys expecting back shoulders, Romes. I’m sure they watched the preseason tape, so I want you try to win on top,’ ” Rodgers said.
“The timing that he had was excellent because he really tried to win back on top on the ball. He wasn’t waiting for the back shoulder. So he’s got really strong hands.”
Doubs framed out Jonathan Jones, turned back into the end zone and scored Rodgers’ 500th career touchdown.
“He put the ball in the spot where only I can get it,” Doubs said after the game. “It comes down to the same exact thing, we work on it in practice all the time. We all know the more consistent you are, eventually you’ll be able to level yourself up as you move forward.”
Romeo Doubs is learning how to bounce back from adversity
Even with some of his longtime teammates on the roster, Rodgers told reporters after the game it was fun to get the milestone score to Doubs. It was also a testament to the confidence the back-to-back MVP has quickly found in his rookie.
“I threw a third-down back-shoulder fade to him for a touchdown, so I’d say I have some confidence in him,” Rodgers said.
The moment also gave Doubs a chance to learn a tough rookie lesson: how to get into and out of a Lambeau Leap.
“I was up there for quite a while. I had to make sure, I had to make it because preseason I didn’t,” Doubs said. “Somebody was grabbing me up there so it was kinda hard to get back down. Bobby (Tonyan) had to come down and grab one of my legs, because I was getting held up there for so long.”
When Doubs went to the sideline, coach Matt LaFleur grabbed him in congratulations. But Doubs told him, “next drive.” He was ready to move on. It’s the mentality he’s had to adapt and one that’s served him well as a rookie. Because despite having gained Rodgers attention and trust, there still are mistakes that happen.
With 2 minutes remaining in a tie game, looking for the win, Rodgers went deep to Doubs in the end zone. It could have been a spectacular play. Doubs had beaten his man. But as he fell forward, the ground caused an incompletion. LaFleur emotionally challenged the play, but lost.
Doubs admits to being emotional as well. But the perpetually quiet kid stuck to himself on the sideline and told himself to move on.
“There’s literally nothing you can do unless you come across something unfortunate,” Doubs said. "As a player, you play the next play. I don’t know how else to break it down. I truthfully believe in letting it go and continuing to play ball."
Aaron Rodgers is so confident in the rookie, he relied on him in overtime
Once in overtime, on the second offensive drive of the extra series and just needing a field goal to win, Rodgers went to Doubs on back-to-back plays. From the New England 45-yard line, Rodgers swung left to Doubs, who shimmied upfield for 8 yards then got out of bounds. The next snap, Rodgers went with a quick throw from under center to Doubs, who picked up 9 more yards.
Doubs had done his part. From there, it was just a matter of AJ Dillon getting the ball to where Mason Crosby wanted to kick the game-winner.
“Romeo is growing. He’s making some plays,” Rodgers said. “I hit him twice in that last drive, so obviously I have confidence in him. I went to him on the key third down with 2 minutes left in the game. I’m not going to lose confidence in him. Obviously, we’ll hold him accountable, but he’s a great kid.”
After most games, Doubs can be found sitting quietly in his locker, watching tape to see where he can improve. It’s what makes him so dangerous, said Packers corner Eric Stokes, who joked after the game that he had all camp to figure out how to defend Doubs and it was still tough, so he understands why opponents are having trouble.
“He’s a student of the game,” Stokes said. “That’s what a lot of people just don’t know. He’s hungry, he’s looking for it. Even after practice, he’s asking us questions, he’s asking the DBs.”
After Sunday’s game, Rodgers found Doubs before he could dive into the tape. Stay ready, because this relationship is just getting started.
Said Rodgers, “I told him after the game, ‘I’m gonna keep coming to you. I’m proud of you. That was awesome the last drive. That was awesome on the back shoulder. And it would’ve been a spectacular game, finishing that one off.’ But he’s a great kid. Really proud of him. Happy he’s ours.”