GREEN BAY, Wis. – With about 8 1/2 minutes left in the first quarter on Monday night, Davante Adams caught a short pass from Aaron Rodgers. Three Detroit Lions defenders were in front of him.
They would have had a better chance of catching a mosquito with a fishing net.
The Green Bay Packers’ All-Pro receiver turned the 5-yard throw into a gain of 18. His wicked cut to the left sent cornerback Amani Oruwariye tumbling to the turf. Oruwariye, in turn, took out safety Will Harris. Linebacker Jamie Collins, like a trailing car after a NASCAR pileup, had to swerve to avoid the wreckage. Finally, Adams cut around linebacker Alex Anzalone before running out of bounds.
Perhaps Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, fresh off his dismantling of the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night, was watching the game and was impressed.
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Defenders really don’t need to see Adams with additional motivation. According to Pro Football Focus, he led NFL receivers with 584 yards after the catch last season, 51 more than Cooper Kupp and one of only five receivers with 500. Of course, a lot of that had to do with volume after finishing second in the league with 115 receptions. Of the 84 receivers who were targeted at least 50 times, Adams was tied for 22nd with 5.1 YAC per catch.
“That was something I wanted to continue to improve upon,” Adams said.
Earlier in his career, Adams was a menace with the ball in his hands. He forced 14 missed tackles in 2016 and 14 more in 2017, according to PFF. But, as attention on him has increased, he’s had less room to run. That missed-tackle count dipped to nine in 2018, two in 2019 and four in 2020.
On that first-quarter play against Detroit, Adams said, “I was pretty open catching the ball on that, just based off of us catching them off-guard with the cadence. They kind of got lost in their coverage as far as who’s responsibility it was to take me over in the middle of the field. Anytime I feel like there’s a vacancy, I feel like you have a better opportunity to do that because you can kind of see the field a little bit better.”
Last season at San Francisco, Adams caught 10 passes for 173 yards, with 63 of those coming after the catch against a depleted Niners defense. It was tougher sledding in 2019. In the regular-season game, he caught seven passes for just 43 yards. Every one of those yards came after the catch. In the conference championship rematch, Adams caught nine balls for 138 yards with 55 after the catch. A big chunk of that came on a fourth-quarter deep ball against Richard Sherman. The 65-yard gain included 22 yards after the catch.
“We got killed and didn’t have a great showing,” Adams said. “Hopefully, we can go out there this Sunday and change that.”