Monday, October 7, 2019

Sans Davante Adams, Packers Prevail in Dallas

By Eric Goska
Davante Adams (17) and Aaron Rodgers (12) have combined for 325 receptions
in the regular-season. Adams did not play in Green Bay’s 34-24 victory in Dallas
For the past 10 years, Aaron Rodgers has always had at least one frequent collaborator in the lineup with him when he has taken to the air in a regular-season game.

Not so Sunday in Dallas.

For the first time since 2009, Rodgers went into the fray without a security blanket – a pass-catcher with whom he had a longstanding working relationship. Fortunately for the Packers, that mattered little as Green Bay jumped on the Cowboys early and held on for a 34-24 win at AT&T Stadium.

The Packers prevailed largely because of an improved running game and an opportunistic defense. Running back Aaron Jones rushed for 107 yards and four touchdowns. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s unit came away with three interceptions.

The Packers hardly seemed to miss Davante Adams. The club’s leading receiver watched the game from the sidelines with a toe injury.

But Adams’ absence was news in and of itself. For the first time in a decade, Rodgers operated without a 100-catch collaborator at his disposal.

Rodgers completed 22 of 34 passes for 238 yards. He failed to throw a touchdown pass for the 15th time in 163 regular-season starts.

Steady and turnover-free, the veteran quarterback did enough to win.

Perhaps Rodgers would have done more had his top target been available. Rodgers and Adams have been playing pitch-and-catch since 2014 when the Packers selected the Fresno State product in the second round of the draft.

Adams and Rodgers are 100-catch collaborators. They are more than a little familiar with each other’s style of play.

Rodgers has thrown more than 100 passes to nine different players throughout his career. Prior to meeting the Cowboys, one or more of those nine had been with him on the field for each of his last 142 regular-season starts.

Donald Driver was the first. The ebullient receiver caught his 100th pass from Rodgers in a 30-23 loss at Minnesota on Oct. 5, 2009.

Greg Jennings joined the ranks 13 days later. He shagged his 100th ball in a 26-0 victory over the Lions at Lambeau Field.

Those who have teamed up most often with Rodgers include some of the better receivers in franchise history: Jordy Nelson (469 catches), Randall Cobb (429), Adams (325), Jennings (324), James Jones (266), Driver (241), Jermichael Finley (214), James Starks (120) and Richard Rodgers (114). Seven of the nine continued to play long after hitting 100, thus serving as reliable outlets for Rodgers when he encountered trouble: Nelson (74 games), Cobb (67), Driver (54), Jones (51), Jennings (47), Adams (38) and Finley (32).

As Rodgers’ career unfolded, the Packers become so laden with veteran receivers that from the second week of 2011 through the fifth game in 2013, Rodgers could count on having at least three and as many as five 100-catch collaborators on the field with him every week. Green Bay went 29-7 (.806) over that stretch.

After two seasons (2014 and 2015) in which the number of frequent collaborators dropped to two, Rodgers again found himself with three and as many as five in 2016. That was the last year in which the Packers made the playoffs.

A year ago, Cobb and Adams were the only 100-catch collaborators remaining. This year, Adams is the last man standing.

Adams and Rodgers have played in 71 regular-season games together. They have combined for 325 receptions and 34 touchdowns.

Adams caught his 100th pass from Rodgers on Oct. 9, 2016. It was the fifth of five passes he snared that day in a 23-16 win over the Giants.

That chemistry between Rodgers and Adams was missing Sunday. Those who attempted to fill the void had far less experience with the veteran quarterback.

Rodgers’ most seasoned partners in Dallas were tight end Jimmy Graham (62 catches), receivers Geronimo Allison (53) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (52), and Jones (40).

The drop off after that was steep. Rodgers has logged relatively little time with the likes of tight end Marcedes Lewis (8), receiver Jake Kumerow (7), tight end Robert Tonyan (6) and fullback Danny Vitale (3).

For the most part, Rodgers looked in the direction of those with whom he was most familiar. He aimed 21 of 31 passes at Jones (8), Allison (6), Valdes-Scantling (4) and Graham (3).

But he also found Tra Carson – a player called up from the practice squad on Saturday – four times for 18 yards. In all, running backs snagged 12 of the 22 passes that found their mark.

Rodgers’ two longest completions – both for 23 yards – went to Graham and Tonyan on the Packers’ second touchdown drive. Jones and Allison also set up scores, each with a catch of 22 yards.

How the Packers would have fared with Adams in the mix will never be known. What the team did learn is that it can win without him against a quality opponent on the road under the right circumstances.

Some or all of those who chased down passes against the Cowboys will continue to do so in the coming weeks even after Adams returns. Eventually one or more might become 100-catch collaborators.

Stocked with enough of those, Green Bay’s passing attack could become especially potent, perhaps ranking again among the best in the league.

Extra point
Jim Taylor (three times), Terdell Middleton, Dorsey Levens and Aaron Jones have all scored four rushing touchdowns in a single game for the Packers. Jones crossed the goal line for the fourth time on just his 12th carry against the Cowboys. The other three players all required at least 19 attempts to get there.

Are You Experienced?
The nine players who caught 100 or more passes from quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the regular season.

Name                          Rec.    Yards       Avg.       LG    TD
Jordy Nelson                469      6,919      14.75       t93     65
Randall Cobb               429      5,092      11.87       t75     39
Davante Adams            325      4,013      12.35       t66     34
Greg Jennings               324      4,980      15.37       t86     38
James Jones                 266      3,885      14.61       t83     41
Donald Driver               241      3,130      12.99       t71     22
Jermichael Finley          214      2,683      12.54       t62     19
James Starks                120         965        8.04       t31       5
Richard Rodgers           114      1,117        9.80       t61     13

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