Matt LaFleur worked with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones for two seasons as the Atlanta Falcons' quarterbacks coach, so he knows something about quarterback-receiver connections. It can’t be taken lightly when he says this about Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams:
“They’re always on the same page, and it’s fun to watch when you see two guys on the same page go out and be able to execute at such a high level,” the Green Bay Packers' second-year coach said. “I think they’re one of the best duos in the National Football League. But again, it’s one week. We have to prove ourselves each and every week. You’re only as good as your last game, so next week will be a new challenge.”
That last part is a coach being a coach, and LaFleur's singular focus quickly turned to this coming Sunday's home opener against the Detroit Lions. But the reality is a quarterback-receiver relationship takes much more than one week or even one season. LaFleur saw it last year as a rookie head coach when Adams – in just 12 games because he missed four with a bad case of turf toe – was the Packers’ do-everything receiver for a 13-3 team that reached the NFC Championship Game.
Sunday’s season opener at Minnesota, however, took Rodgers and Adams to another level. Adams tied the franchise record with 14 receptions – a record held by Don Hutson since 1942 – and totaled 156 yards and two touchdowns on 17 targets. He should have had two more catches. He bobbled one on the sideline late in the first half after he was charged by ESPN Stats & Information for a drop on fourth-and-goal at the 1 earlier.
As strong as the bond was between Rodgers and Jordy Nelson – the two hold the Packers’ record for touchdowns by a QB-WR combination with 65 – Adams is approaching and could surpass that. Adams began the season tied with Randall Cobb for third on the list with 39 touchdowns apiece from Rodgers. Adams now stands tied with James Jones and behind only Nelson with 41 thanks to his two touchdowns from Rodgers in Sunday’s 43-34 win over the Vikings.
“I think that really started with Jordy; he and I were just always on the same page,” Rodgers said. “There was nothing that we couldn't do on the field with our non-verbal communication, but we would have conversations during the week and even morning of the game and even during the game about tiny little adjustments we wanted to make. Davante was around that, and it was the same way with Randall and I think anybody who sees that and sees the success you can have when there's two guys on the same page, I think there's a desire to have that same relationship.
“I've worked hard and Davante has as well with our communication to where I feel like games like [Sunday] are possible. He had a couple plays during the game today that kind of reminded me of the connection Jordy and I had, especially with an outside receiver, just little, subtle adjustments, especially with his angles at the top of stems was pretty fun to see us connect on.”
Perhaps it was just a continuation of where Adams left off last season.
In his past six games, dating to Week 15 and including the two playoff games last year, Adams has five 100-plus yard games. In his only game without 100 yards, he finished with 93 and a touchdown in the regular-season finale against the Lions.
Adams said he and Rodgers hold weekly sessions – just the two of them – and he knew by the end of their meeting last week that Sunday’s performance was in the works.
“He tells me to bring him a list of things that -- not necessarily bring him, but come to him with certain routes that I like going into the week, and we talk about that,” Adams said. "Yeah, my preparation was pretty much wrapped up Friday, and it was just locking in and tapping into getting ready to play here in front of zero thousand fans. So I get my prep in early, and I kind of had some different mental waves that I went into, because we didn't have any games yet. So I was a little jacked up for that. I would say it was pretty early. That's not no disrespect to [the Vikings], they're definitely talented. But just based off the vibe and the way this offense is on with me and No. 12 right now.”