It was a question that even gnawed a bit at coach Mike McCarthy.
“Definitely,” McCarthy said on Monday, a day after Davante Adams caught six passes for 121 yards to help spark the Packers’ 26-21 victory over New England. “I have the benefit of being around the players all the time in practice and so forth. Davante has continued to improve throughout the year. He’s a natural receiver. He’s gifted. He’s got good size, the ability to separate. That confidence doesn’t just show up Week 12 or Week 13. This is something that’s been building with Aaron and all of our young guys.”
Adams’ big performance — the dropped touchdown pass notwithstanding — was a critical factor in Sunday’s outcome. With the Patriots dropping seven and eight defenders into coverage throughout the game, Nelson was limited to two receptions — though one of them went 45 yards for a touchdown.
Adams caught three passes for 90 yards in the first quarter alone. With Adams having his way with Logan Ryan, Patriots coach Bill Belichick felt compelled to switch up the defensive matchups for a good portion of the final three quarters. Rather than having Brandon Browner on Nelson and Darrelle Revis on Cobb, which was Belichick’s plan to start the game, he switched Browner to Adams, put Revis on Nelson and brought in Kyle Arrington to face Cobb. That played to Green Bay’s advantage, with all of Cobb’s seven receptions for 85 yards coming after the first quarter.
“(Adams) had a good day,” offensive coordinator Tom Clements said on Monday. “Based on what they were doing, he got a lot of single coverage and Aaron saw how they were deploying their secondary people and he saw the one-on-one with Davante and went to him a number of times and he capitalized on his opportunities.”
Through the first six games, Adams, Eddie Lacy, Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers had combined for 39 receptions for 402 yards and three touchdowns. In the last six games, they have combined for 61 receptions for 786 yards and eight touchdowns. (See chart at end of this story.)
Moreover, in the first 11 games, Cobb and Nelson represented at least half of the completions nine times and at least half of the passing yardage 10 times. Against the Patriots, they combined for only nine of the 24 completions and 138 of the 368 passing yards. The nine receptions were their third-fewest of the season, and they had five games of at least 200 receiving yards. So, relatively speaking, it was a quiet game for the Dynamic Duo. Nonetheless, with Adams leading the charge, the Packers still threw for 368 yards and mostly had their way with one of the best defenses in the league.
That certainly bodes well for teams who try to emulate the Patriots’ game plan schematically or feel they have the cornerback talent to attempt to match it physically.
“You put the plan together and you have an anticipation of how they’ll match up,” McCarthy said. “But I thought they really gave us a challenge as far as how they kept switching the matchups during the course of the game, or based on personnel and things like that. And Aaron did a great job sorting through that. With that being said, we don’t force the ball in. We try to create opportunities for Randall and Jordy, but we felt the tight ends and our other receivers, both Davante and (Jarrett) Boykin, would have opportunities. Aaron spreads the ball around and they made the best of it.”
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