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Davante Adams making new inroads – with his QB and in Packers' record book

Comparison of connections can’t be taken lightly

WR Davante Adams
WR Davante Adams

GREEN BAY – Davante Adams watched it his first four years in the NFL. Now he's living it.

After last week's playoff win over Seattle, when quarterback Aaron Rodgers described his chemistry with Adams as approaching that which he enjoyed for a decade with Jordy Nelson, it was an eye-opening comparison.

It isn't lost on Adams what it means, either, having witnessed up close how Rodgers and Nelson worked together upon Adams' arrival as a second-round draft pick in 2014.

"It was special, man," Adams said after Wednesday's practice, in a formal press conference leading up to Sunday's NFC Championship Game at San Francisco. "It seemed Aaron always knew where he was going to be, even when it was off-schedule."

Yet there was always something mystical about it.

"There was nothing Jordy could tell me," Adams said. "'It's just a feel, bro.'"

Adams was borderline jealous, wanting to reach the same level, but he's finding that feel now. His record-setting 160-yard performance in last week's divisional playoff win is the latest proof.

Whether it was the play-action bootleg passes run just as they're drawn up or the improvised third-down route from the slot late in the game, Adams and Rodgers were practically unstoppable against the Seahawks.

The performance also sprinkled Adams' name throughout Green Bay's postseason record book. His yardage total topped the team's single-game mark, previously held by Jermichael Finley, by a yard. The eight catches tied for second most.

His two touchdowns give him six in the playoffs in his career, tied for second behind Antonio Freeman (10). With three 100-yard receiving games to his credit, he's tied for the top spot with Freeman, Greg Jennings and Robert Brooks, all of whom played in at least 10 playoff contests while Adams just completed his seventh.

"It means a lot, but I'm not after the records," Adams said of his place in team history. "Doing what I do on the field, those will come. I don't go into a playoff game saying I need a buck-sixty to beat Jermichael Finley.

"If I go out there and have a really good game, that puts us in a better position to win the game, so that's the goal."

From Rodgers' perspective, the increased chemistry with Adams is rooted in his memory.

For years, Rodgers and Nelson would have conversations on the sideline at practice or during games, or in the hallway outside the meeting rooms, about plays and situations from past games. Those talks built almost a telepathy between the two on the field.

Rodgers said Adams' recall is getting faster, so he's starting to do more of that than he has in the past, chatting about things that have occurred earlier in his career.

"He's realizing how important that is to improve," Rodgers said. "That's one part of his game that's definitely changed. Being able to recall those things in those moments is how we're able to get on the same page. He's made a number of plays this season, plays that really show how connected we are."

Missing four games with a turf toe injury, and working his way back to full strength after returning to action, prevented Adams from matching the monster regular season he put together a year ago. But he still totaled a team-best 83 catches, 997 yards and five TDs before his dynamite playoff outing.

Known for his shifty and explosive releases from the line of scrimmage, Adams calls working on that part of his game an "obsession." His precision with running routes, like the post-corner that he turned into a 40-yard TD last week with a big cutback after the catch, is just as important.

"Some of the stuff Davante does, you just can't coach," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "He has a great feel for how to run routes, how to work edges, how to get a defender to think one thing and do the opposite.

"He puts a lot of thought into that, too, and that's a credit to him. I've been so impressed with how smart he is as a football player."

That's also how a connection with an all-time great like Rodgers develops – "He's a smart guy, too," Adams said, smiling – and the Packers will need the duo at its best Sunday in San Francisco. Adams is from the Bay Area, so to be playing for a Super Bowl berth there is a "dream come true" for him.

There's a good chance the 49ers will match top corner Richard Sherman on Adams, as well as provide safety help or cloud coverage at times. Adams and Sherman have had their share of battles over the years, but Adams' approach doesn't change no matter the opponent. He aims to play his game and make the defender adjust to him.

What adjustments the Packers make to the offense as a whole to get more production from Adams in the San Francisco rematch remains to be seen. He caught seven passes and had a touchdown back in Week 12, but it was all short stuff for a total of just 43 yards.

"We have to understand what they're going to try to do to us, and taking away '17' has to be right near the top of the list because he's so talented," Rodgers said. "We're going to have to find ways to get him the football.

"The best offenses we've watched over the years still find a way to get the ball to their go-to guy."

If that has ratcheted up the pressure on Adams, he's not showing it. He emphasized he won't try to be a "superhero."

Relying on what he's got going with Rodgers right now will have to do.

"The more years you have," he said, "the sharper that connection gets."

The Green Bay Packers practiced inside the Don Hutson Center on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020.

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