Rodgers Turns Back the Clock

On a key play on the winning drive, Aaron Rodgers stole a play from legendary Dan Marino's playbook by faking a clock-stopping spike and firing a pass to Davante Adams. (Brad Barr/USA TODAY)

While authoring a Hall of Fame career for the Dolphins, Dan Marino was one of the NFL’s all-time great comeback artists.

According to Scott Kacsmar’s research at Pro-Football-Reference.com, Marino ranks second in NFL history with 36 fourth-quarter comebacks. Perhaps his most famous came on Nov. 17, 1994. With the Dolphins trailing 24-21 with 30 seconds remaining and the ball at the Jets’ 8, Marino acted as if he were going to clock the ball. Instead, he threw it to Mark Ingram, who took advantage of the sleeping New York defense to score the game-winning touchdown.

So, perhaps it was fitting that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ seventh career fourth-quarter comeback victory — 27-24 at Miami on Sunday — came with Marino in attendance, and with a fake spike being a key play.

“That was kind of some freestyling right there,” Rodgers said.

The Packers trailed 24-20 when they got the ball at their 40-yard line with 2:04 remaining and no timeouts. Guard T.J. Lang’s fumble recovery, Rodgers’ 18-yard completion to Jordy Nelson on fourth-and-10 and Rodgers’ 10-yard pass to James Starks on third-and-10 pushed the ball to Miami’s 20-yard line and set the wheels in motion for a memorable finish.

With time ticking away, Rodgers threw a short pass to Randall Cobb, who was tagged down at the 16 with 23 seconds remaining. Rodgers rushed the offense to the line of scrimmage. With Eddie Lacy replacing an exhausted Starks, Rodgers signaled for a clock-stopping spike of the ball. Rodgers, however, saw an inviting matchup.

To the right side of the formation, Nelson was lined up in the slot with Davante Adams to the outside. Veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan was lined up on Adams but standing at the 6 — a full 11 yards off of Adams.

“It’s one of those things that you don’t really tell anybody what’s going on,” Rodgers said. “You’re just yelling ‘clock’ and signaling ‘clock’ and then right before I snapped it, I looked out to the right and they were way off outside so I just kind of faked it and moved. Davante wasn’t looking at me initially but after he saw me, probably moving, he looked and I threw it.”

Adams said he saw the signal.

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“It’s real subtle, because he’s doing it (the “clock” signal) so other people are going to be able to pick up on it.”

Interestingly, even upon Adams catching the ball, Nelson was still in his stance and hadn’t moved an inch.

Adams was ready and made a savvy veteran move. Without a timeout, Adams knew he couldn’t be tackled in bounds. But there was an opportunity to move the ball to the doorstep of the end zone.

“I knew how much time was on the clock, so I wanted to get as much as I could,” Adams said. “(Finnegan is) giving me the inside, he wants me to run where he has help in here, so you’ve got to force it and get as much as we could.”

By the time Finnegan twisted Adams out of bounds, the ball was at the 4-yard line and it was first-and-goal with 6 seconds remaining.

“I was hoping that he knew to just get a couple (yards) and get out of bounds but he almost ended up scoring,” Rodgers said. “He’s a talented guy. I told him this week it was going to be a big week for him, a week that I think he would start to really separate himself, and he had a number of important catches for us and that was one of them.”

The Packers had time for two plays but only needed one. Rodgers fired a perfect back-shoulder pass to tight end Andrew Quarless, who ran an excellent route against linebacker Phillip Wheelers.

Touchdown, Packers. Victory, Packers. All because of a modern legend borrowing a page from the playbook of a retired legend.

“I can’t even explain how you feel sometimes,” Adams aid. “We had a lot of fans out there. When Q caught that touchdown, everybody erupted. I felt like we were at home. It’s a good feeling.”

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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