While Boykin’s rise and fall has been astounding, Aaron Rodgers has gained confidence in rookies Adams and Richard Rodgers. That’s especially true with Richard Rodgers, a fact never more evident than on the Rodgers-to-Rodgers touchdown connection in the fourth quarter against Dallas that proved to be the game-winning score.
On first down from the Cowboys’ 13, Aaron Rodgers moved to his left and threw the equivalent of a 100 mph fastball to Richard Rodgers in the back of the end zone between two defenders.
“I can’t quantify it,” offensive coordinator Tom Clements said about the degree of difficulty on that play. “It was a hell of a throw and a great catch.”
The steady-as-he-goes Richard Rodgers , the son of Carolina’s special-teams coordinator, didn’t think he did anything special.
“It wasn’t that difficult,” he said on Monday. “It was a great throw by Aaron and the offensive line did a great job giving him time to throw, so I didn’t really have to do too much.”
Other than catch a pass that might have dented the north wall of the end zone had it not been caught. The pass beat Cowboys defenders Sterling Moore and J.J. Wilcox, and Moore reacted in stunned disbelief that he was unable to make a play.
“(The window) looked kind of big when I threw it and then it kind of got a little smaller as the ball got a little closer,” Aaron Rodgers said after the game. “He's got incredible hands but he did a good job of body-catching that one.”
The touchdown came on the heels of the Week 17 game against Detroit, when Richard Rodgers caught a career-high five passes for 40 yards. Three of those came on a fourth-quarter touchdown drive, including a 6-yard gain while being smothered by linebacker Tahir Whitehead on third-and-4. Sunday’s play spoke volumes about the quarterback’s comfort level in his rookie tight end. After all, it was first-and-10 and not a do-or-die fourth-down play. If Aaron Rodgers didn’t believe in Richard Rodgers, he could have thrown the ball into the fourth row and lined up to play second down.
“It wasn’t that big of a trust situation,” Aaron Rodgers said on his weekly radio show with ESPN Milwaukee’s Jason Wilde on Tuesday. “I mean, he’s got incredible hands — I dare say the best hands on the team. I mean, he went through a stretch in training camp where he didn’t drop a pass.”
Richard Rodgers caught 20 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns during the regular season; 17 of those receptions came in the final nine games. Among tight ends with at least 20 catches, he tied for the fewest drops with one, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
“He’s an exceptional player with great potential for us,” Aaron Rodgers said. “Obviously, he hasn’t gotten a lot of opportunities, but he knows football. I think he’s got himself in really good shape. If you’ve seen him throughout the year, it seems like he’s leaning out, actually, and maybe just a tad lighter. I don’t know if that’s on purpose or just the grind of the season. He looks to be putting himself in a position to be more of a pass-catching threat.
“He’s made some big catches for us over the year. He had the easy one in Minnesota, where he was all alone, and then he had a big one against New England, which was an important one for us. And this one (vs. Dallas) was just him kind of running his post route and continuing over the top of the defender as I moved to the left. I kind of went through, and he was kind of my second read initially and then he was No. 5 as I moved to the left – Q (Andrew Quarless), then Richard, then Jordy (Nelson) in the slot, then Davante (Adams), then Randall (Cobb) out of the backfield and then back to Richard.”
A productive Richard Rodgers would make Aaron Rodgers’ life easier on Sunday, especially with Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman’s ability to shut down his side of the field. Nelson (nine for 83) and Cobb (six for 58) combined for 15 catches in the first matchup. It didn’t do the Packers a bit of good, though. They’ll need a more balanced attack to slay the defending champions.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a different player but I’ve learned a lot with film study and just improved obviously over the season,” Richard Rodgers said. “I’ve had my growing pains and had successes.”firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.