GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers could sense an elevation in Davante Adams’ confidence.
Moments after Adams set career highs with 13 catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns last Thursday against Chicago, Rodgers talked about his discussions with Adams on the sideline.
The third-year receiver was telling his quarterback how the Bears were guarding him, and what routes he thought would succeed. That kind of communication goes on all the time, but Rodgers pointing it out right after a big game is evidence enough that this was a little different.
“That’s where you want to be,” Rodgers said on Wednesday. “You want your line telling you what protections they like, the receivers telling you routes that can work, the backs telling you what runs they want.
“I think that’s when your team is really clicking more, and more connected, when they feel confident putting their spin on things.”
Adams had that against the Bears and their backup cornerbacks. Now his challenge is to carry it over against better front-line competition, starting Sunday at Atlanta.
“These games are great,” Adams said, reflecting back. “You love to have these. You have to stack them.”
That’s the next step for Adams, who hasn’t followed up his big games in the past with strong outings, due to various circumstances.
After Adams’ six-catch, 121-yard performance against New England as a rookie in 2014, Rodgers said opponents naturally paid more attention to him. The first ensuing foe was Atlanta, coincidentally, and Adams caught just one pass, though the Packers’ offense as a whole didn’t suffer in putting up 43 points.
Following a seven-catch, 117-yard playoff game vs. Dallas, the next opponent was Seattle, an entirely different defensive animal.
Last year, Adams had a 10-catch game against Detroit in mid-November, but it was mostly short receptions and more of a nice outing amidst a difficult year. Injured from Week 2 on, Adams described last year as “walking around on one good wheel.”
Then, back closer to full health for the playoffs, he caught three passes for 39 yards and a TD in the first half at Washington in the wild-card game, only to injure his knee on a 9-yard reception on the first play of the third quarter, and his season was suddenly over.
This year, from his health to feeling in the flow of the game, he senses everything’s different.
“I know based on the production and the numbers and how I feel playing,” he said. “That’s all I need to gauge it off of.”
Perhaps the Packers’ offensive adjustments with a banged-up backfield will help Adams keep rolling. Ty Montgomery is lining up behind Rodgers in place of Eddie Lacy and James Starks, with Don Jackson and Knile Davis getting work, too.
Rodgers and the receivers found some rhythm with a spread-’em-out, quick-throw approach against Chicago, and Adams certainly was among the beneficiaries.
“It’s definitely different, not having Eddie or James back there,” Adams said. “It brings a whole new flavor to the offense, having Ty back there. Him being a receiver, it puts them in a bind how they want to play when we come out with whoever’s on the field.”
The matchups that Adams and Montgomery draw, assuming Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are the defense’s higher priorities, will be watched closely by Rodgers.
Schematically, Montgomery is the one taking on greater responsibility within the offense, learning all the running back duties, including blitz pick-up. Montgomery referred to protecting Rodgers as needing to be on his “p’s and q’s,” but the second-year pro is having a blast lining up wherever and doing whatever he’s asked.
“I love it,” Montgomery said. “There’s a whole lot of different strategies on what you’re trying to accomplish depending on what position you’re in.
“What you’re trying to do, who you’re trying to beat, who you’re matched up against, who you’re trying to block, are you protecting the quarterback, are you running the football? It’s a lot of fun.”
The Packers’ newest producers are helping the offense find what works, but Rodgers was careful to note that every game is a clean slate.
The rhythm doesn’t simply continue. It must be started again.
“Confidence you can carry over, and I feel good about the things we did with Ty and Randall and Davante having big games,” Rodgers said. “But you have to create your own momentum once the game starts.”