GREEN BAY – It probably would have received more attention had the game not come down to a fourth-and-1 stop with less than two dozen seconds left.
Aaron Rodgers’ touchdown pass to Davante Adams late in the first half of the Packers’ 27-23 win in Jacksonville on Sunday will make the career highlight reels of both players.
Rodgers had one defender grabbing his jersey from behind and another in his face, yet he somehow had the arm strength to fire the ball about 35 yards on a rope to the goal line.
Adams had former Packers cornerback Davon House draped all over him (and getting flagged for pass interference), yet he still managed to make the diving catch for the go-ahead 29-yard score with 13 seconds left in the half.
For Rodgers, it’s one of many eye-popping moments in an already decorated career. For Adams, it’s the kind of play that can start one.
“It’s what you’re looking for, to go out and make a big play,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday. “The throw was phenomenal. It was a phenomenal catch as far as the coverage and fighting through that. It’s definitely something he’ll gain confidence from.”
It was just Adams’ second regular-season TD catch since his rookie 2014 season. Hurt much of last year when extra responsibility was thrown upon him in the wake of Jordy Nelson’s injury, Adams had just one TD catch in 2015. He added another in the playoffs, potentially a sign of a better season to come in 2016.
The two had connected on a similarly crazy TD in Week 4 of 2014 in Chicago, but a holding penalty up front nullified a great toss and grab in traffic.
“It’s really hard to rank them, because I’ve seen him make so many great throws,” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said of Rodgers. “That’s the God-given talent that he has. That’s a throw he can make, putting our guys in position to make plays.”
The score capped a second straight TD drive for the Packers after three straight three-and-outs. In a feast-or-famine way, the offense scored every time it gained at least one first down – on five possessions total.
The other four drives, other than the game-ending kneel-down, were three-and-outs, including one with five minutes left when McCarthy took the blame for a communication problem that led to both a timeout and delay of game.
Rodgers commented after the game that moving the chains just once, gaining that initial first down, seems to be the spark the Packers need. Bennett echoed that on Monday.
“It’s all about getting in a rhythm, the timing, everyone in sync, everyone on the same page, and then it comes down to outright executing,” he said.
“It helps with the tempo to get you going. That’s certainly key.”
There’s always plenty to work on after Week 1, and this year it’s no different. Mike Zimmer’s Minnesota Vikings will present a more experienced and polished defensive challenge to the Packers in Week 2.
Fighting through the circumstances on Sunday – the weather, Nelson’s first game in over a year, some tough breaks with field position – and still grinding out a win will serve this team well, according to McCarthy.
“It’s where you want to be, frankly,” he said. “To do whatever you have to do to win the game, dealing with the challenge of the heat, it’s something to build off of. I love the adversity of that.
“It’s something you need as a football team. You need to find a way to win games in challenges that are not normal to you. That’s the beauty of the National Football League.”