GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers always means what he says.
So last Sunday when he said after the Packers' victory over the Titans that Davante Adams belongs in the conversation with soon-to-be Hall of Famer Charles Woodson as the best player Rodgers has ever played with, he wasn't kidding around.
Adams' reaction to that? "He keeps throwing me off because he's saying these really nice things about me," the four-time Pro Bowl receiver said Wednesday.
OK, so that was a joke. But Adams' real reaction to those comments from one of his closest friends, teammates and admirers says a lot about what makes Adams the player he is.
"It fuels me," Adams continued. "I think for some people it can kind of slow them down or make them feel like they've arrived, but being the best or being told that I'm the best or people thinking that, it doesn't scare me at all.
"I feel like I embrace that and when I hear those positive things, especially from a guy like Aaron, it just pushes me to go even harder."
Rodgers and Head Coach Matt LaFleur have pushed him, too, schematically, asking him to add more and different things to the offense. That's not only made it harder to cover him, it's made the Packers' entire unit more difficult to defend, the way Rodgers sees it.
"The more that we give him, the more we get out," Rodgers said. "The more latitude that we give him within the offense, the more production we have.
"He's not a paper football kind of guy. He's not an X's and O's kind of guy. He does so many crazy, talented things between the lines that the offense, just any offense in general, doesn't have the creativity on paper that he can add to route schemes."
As the Packers look to take that creativity to another level in the postseason, they'll wrap up what has evolved into an epic regular season statistically for the two headliners of the Packers' offense Sunday in Chicago with several milestones, franchise records and the like on the line.
First, for Adams, who has 109 catches for 1,328 yards and 17 touchdowns to date:
- He needs four catches to surpass Sterling Sharpe's single-season franchise mark of 112 set in 1993.
- He needs two touchdowns to beat Sharpe's record of 18 from 1994.
- He needs 192 yards to top Jordy Nelson's yardage record of 1,519 set in 2014.
Those are the big ones. If he gets those two TDs, he'll match Don Hutson for the most two-TD games in one season in team history (six in 1942). He's also 10 catches away from catching Nelson for third on the franchise's all-time receptions list at 550. And if he gets both 10 catches and two TDs, he'll become the first player in league history to have five such games in one season, breaking a current tie with Cris Carter at four (from 1995).
The list goes on with Adams, who it should be noted is on the verge of doing all this in a 14-game season, having missed Weeks 3-4 with a hamstring injury.
But as a player who twice has fallen short of a 1,000-yard season by three yards and who ended up one catch shy of Sharpe's 112 two years ago when he missed the last game due to injury, he's learned "the more you focus on (the numbers), the harder it is, the more stress you put on yourself."
Rodgers wants to see him hit a franchise mark or two, but forcing it won't be his approach.
"It's not the main focus," Rodgers said. "I always feel like records, milestones should come within the flow of the game, and that's why there's a special nature to them. But if in the flow of the game we get a chance to get him rolling and get him those milestones, it'd be really special."
Rodgers has some special numbers within reach, too, in a season he's already surpassed 50,000 passing yards and 400 TDs, and become the first QB in league history with 40-plus TD passes in three different seasons.
For Rodgers, who is 353-of-502 (70.3%) for 4,059 yards with 44 TDs, five INTs and a 119.4 passer rating:
- He needs two TD passes to break his own franchise record of 45 set back in his first MVP season of 2011.
- He needs three TD passes for his 12th three-TD game of the year to join Tom Brady (2007) as the only NFL QBs to achieve the feat in one season. He's currently tied for second with 11, also reached by Drew Brees (2012) and Peyton Manning (2013).
- He's on the verge of breaking his own franchise mark for completion percentage in a season (68.3 in 2011).
Again, the list goes on, at the very top of which is a possible third NFL MVP award, achieved by only five players in the history of the Associated Press honor, which dates back to the late 1950s (Brady, Manning, Brett Favre, Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown).
Rodgers has said multiple times it would mean a lot to get a third MVP, but the motivation doesn't come from the award itself.
"There's no greater measuring stick than the accountability that I have to my teammates and the expectation level that they have," Rodgers said. "Meeting and exceeding that expectation level is important to me."
To conclude, here's a list of other notable individual and team milestones that could be reached in Sunday's regular-season finale (all stats here and above courtesy of the weekly Dope Sheet):
- TE Robert Tonyan has 10 TD catches and needs one to match and two to beat Paul Coffman's single-season team record for a tight end (11 in 1983).
- LB Za'Darius Smith has a sack in 10 different games and would break a tie with Tim Harris for the most games with a sack in a single season with one more. Harris had 10 in both 1988 and '89.
- K Mason Crosby, who tied Jan Stenerud's single-season franchise mark for field-goal accuracy last year at 91.67% (22-of-24), is currently at 100% (16-of-16) on the year.
- The Packers, with 474 points through 15 games, need 13 points to become the second-highest scoring team in Green Bay history, surpassing the 2014 team (486). The highest is the 2011 team's 560 points.
- With 30 points, the Packers would post their 12th game with 30-plus on the season, beating the 2011 team's 11 games with 30-plus.
- With 30 points and no turnovers, the Packers would record their 10th such game, breaking a tie with the 2010 Patriots for the most in one season in NFL history.
- With one or zero sacks allowed, the Packers would match the team high of 13 such games set in 2004.