He turned left, right and downfield. Along the way, Davante Adams turned in his best NFL game on Sunday, leading the Green Bay Packers with six catches for 121 yards in a 26-21 victory over the New England Patriots.
The rookie second-round pick via Fresno State did so with the little things, against a secondary with several big things. But those big things, headlined by three-time All-Pro Darrelle Revis and the 6-foot-4, 221-pound Brandon Browner, had much of their attention dispersed elsewhere. And that was something Adams made the most of over the course of his 59 snaps.
It was part of the design.
Though Green Bay’s No. 3 wideout didn’t head into Week 13 with the 126 receptions, 1,903 yards or 19 touchdowns that fellow wideouts Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb did, he headed in with the 6-foot-1, 215-pound mold of a different kind of third option.
He would be a primary one.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw in Adams’ direction seven times in the first quarter versus New England. The first three netted incompletions, and one of which was negated by a defensive holding call on the other side of the field. But before long, the volume of pass attempts was met by a volume of passing yards.
With 8:13 remaining in the first, Rodgers rolled out of play action, spending six seconds stretching the coverage with his feet before hitting Adams on a double-move corner route opposite second-year corner Logan Ryan.
With free safety Devin McCourty occupying Nelson’s pattern with Browner over top, and with Revis and linebacker Jamie Collins exiting staying back to zone the hashes as Cobb crossed them, Adams made his move.
He congested them, then sliced through them, raising his hand as he saw the last line of defense leave him. A 33-yard gain was the byproduct before he trailed out of bounds.
It may have not been the way it was drawn up, yet it didn’t need to be. It was the fourth double-move route Adams was targeted on, and the first that ended in a completion.
There would be more.
Adams went on to be targeted on an in-cut that gained 12 against Ryan at the sticks and a collision from linebacker Dont’a Hightower. A double-move fade followed four minutes later against Ryan; however, the receiver hauled it in out of bounds.
Even so, Rodgers would go back to him again with 40 seconds left in the opening quarter on an out-and-up route from a stacked set. And with it being 3rd-and-2, Adams’ assignment was set to protect the marker from five yards out.
New England’s defense wanted to get off the field. That played into his hand.
Adams cut out from his plant to the sideline and swung his hips back up the field; in turn, forcing Ryan to take the long way back to him with no shell overhead.
But the receivers’ deep speed made that itinerary an urgent one. Adams widened the gap with each step and glanced over his shoulder.
Rodgers connected with him in stride moments later, and the catch and run picked up 45 yards in a situation where New England was focused on two.
Adams showcased his quickness, length and acceleration at Lambeau Field on Sunday. In the process, he showcased the ability to find the void both below and beyond coverage, netting three catches for 90 yards on seven pass attempts versus Ryan in the first alone. Yet as the Packers’ fourth offense series commenced in the second, the Patriots made a change.
Revis went from Cobb to Nelson, Browner from Nelson to Adams, and nickelback Kyle Arrington entered to cover Cobb. And for Adams, the change parlayed into just one target – a throwaway on a double-move fade – over the 15 minutes before halftime.
As the third got underway, it was Alfonzo Dennard’s turn to cover the outside receiver. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound defensive back proceeded to let up a 12 yard reception on a comeback route, And then, as the Patriots showcased a zone look, it was Collins who was the main coverage on a two-yard drag route on 3rd-and-21 with three minutes left in the quarter.
New England wasn’t done with the in-game alterations, though. After Dennard conceded a 17-yard slant to Adams at the 12:30 mark in the fourth, Ryan got another chance at the receiver who broke off for gains of 33, 12 and 45 across from him.
It was Ryan who started and finished on Adams, and he was targeted once – a dropped 10-yard slant that would have ended in a touchdown – during the final quarter. But Adams’ suddenness in and out of breaks had left a mark by then.
Adams had been tried seven official times in Ryan’s jurisdiction, once Collins’, and twice in Dennard’s. He had done so through four fades, one up-and-out, one corner, one in-cut, one drag, one comeback and two slant routes from five different alignments in the tree.
That impacted all three levels of the field.
And by the time Green Bay had hung on, Adams had notched receptions on four of Green Bay’s scoring drives. He had notched receptions in the short, intermediate and deep passing game, as well as the first 100-yard performance of his NFL career.
The reason why remains layered.
Yet when the matchups against him shifted, so did he.