GREEN BAY, Wis. – On third down, Aaron Rodgers knew exactly what to do.
Throw it to Davante Adams.
The Green Bay Packers had their best third-down performance of the season on Sunday at Houston. That’s because Rodgers and Adams were practically unstoppable.
The Packers converted a season-best 58.3 percent of their third-down plays against the Texans. All seven conversions were completions to Adams. Those plays highlighted a monster day – 13 catches for a career-high 196 yards and career-high-tying two touchdowns – that keyed a 35-20 victory.
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“I don’t know what he can’t do,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said on Monday. “He is a complete player, man. I don’t think there’s a route he can’t run, so we’re fortunate to have a guy that we can lean heavily on, as was the case [at Houston]. I think all our third-down conversions were to him, and that’s rare that that ever happens. When the opportunities present themselves, he consistently delivers. I know he and Aaron have a great connection.”
Even while missing two-and-a-half of the team’s six games, Adams is tied for the NFL lead with 11 first downs on third-down receptions. Those seven first-down producing receptions on third downs against the Texans were two more than any other receiver this season.
The third-down train got rolling from the start. On the opening drive, Adams caught an off-target throw on third-and-1 for a gain of 8. Later, on third-and-goal, Adams buckled the knees of his defender for an easy 3-yard touchdown. Late in the first quarter, he went deep for a gain of 28 on third-and-3. That play set up a touchdown to make it 14-0. Just before halftime, Adams took a receiver screen for a gain of 16 to convert a third-and-10. That set up a touchdown that made it 21-0 at halftime.
After Houston scored coming out of halftime, the Packers answered to lead 28-7. First, Adams had a gain of 9 on third-and-5. Then, on third-and-4, Adams ran right past safety Eric Murray for a 45-yard touchdown. Finally, Adams’ gain of 16 on a back-shoulder throw converted a third-and-7 and set up the team’s final touchdown.
All told, Adams’ seven third-down catches produced 125 yards and had a hand in all five of the team’s touchdowns.
“Much like Week 1 [at Minnesota], it wasn’t necessarily the plan to get him involved like that,” Rodgers said after the game. “It was more the coverages we were seeing and the ways Matt was dialing it up, he was in position for a number of those opportunities. It was the [28-yard] catch down the left sideline on third down that got us going. He’s such a talented player and gives you such a wide margin when you throw the ball to him. When he’s in the game, obviously, we’re tough.”
With a 5-1 record, the Packers will host the Vikings on Sunday. Minnesota is 1-5. Green Bay hammered the Vikings 43-34 in the opener, with Adams tormenting the Vikings for 14 receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns. The reception count tied Don Hutson’s franchise record.
With its young cornerbacks struggling to replace the veteran duo of Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes, Minnesota ranks 29th in opponent passer rating and 30th in yards allowed per attempt. The trio of Mike Hughes, Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler will be challenged again by Adams.
“He’s terrific,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said of Adams on Monday. “These young corners, that’s part of the deal. It’s not like college. You get a good [receiver] every week and you get a quarterback that can really throw the heck out of the football. Davante has been terrific on crossing routes, terrific on the deep throws, versus press, versus off, he catches the ball on the sideline.
“And, obviously, he’s got a quarterback [in Aaron Rodgers] who can do all of those things to get him the ball. They’re doing a good job scheming him, as well. They don’t leave him in one place. They move him all over the field. Sometimes he runs the jet sweeps, and sometimes he’s on the backside by himself. Sometimes – last week against Houston – they throw a screen to him when he's in the slot. So, we’ll obviously know where he is and we’re going to have to do our very best to try to challenge him. He’s always a tough matchup.”