Packers-49ers PreviewGreen Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur celebrates a touchdown with Aaron Rodgers during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Aaron Rodgers has spoken on several occasions about the chemistry he had with former longtime teammate Jordy Nelson.
Rodgers says he didn't have to tell Nelson where to be or where he was going to put the ball. Nelson just knew.
Rodgers has developed that same connection with two-time Pro Bowler Davante Adams.
The two connected eight times (all for first downs) Sunday in a 28-23 win over the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC divisional playoffs. Adams set a franchise postseason record with 160 yards receiving.
“Just one of those special nights," Rodgers said after the victory. “Tonight reminds me of the connection that Jordy and I had for so many years where there were some unspoken things that we could do without even communicating anything about it."
The Rodgers-to-Adams connection. Rodgers and Adams had their best collective performances since Week 4, where Adams had 10 catches for 180 yards against the Eagles before suffering a turf toe injury. Adams missed the next four weeks.
Rodgers and Adams talked throughout the week leading up to Sunday, and two of those conversations led directly to touchdowns.
“We put the world on our shoulders,” Adams said. “It’s something that we came into this game knowing that it was going to have to be a 12-and-17-type game, one of those ones that we’ve done in the past.”
One conversation between the two led to Rodgers suggesting to head coach and play-caller Matt LaFleur that Adams and Geronimo Allison run fake rub routes to create space. LaFleur listened and the result was a 20-yard touchdown for Adams on third-and-7 on the opening series of the game.
Rodgers and Adams had another conversation at halftime. That one led to Adams' second score of the night. With Green Bay facing man coverage in its three-tight end set, the two drew up a play where Adams ran a post-corner route. It worked. Adams beat Seattle's Tre Flowers, stopped and turned upfield for a 40-yard touchdown to put Green Bay up 28-10 with 7:09 left in the third quarter.
LaFleur listened to his star quarterback and receiver on both plays.
“If it makes sense, why wouldn't you do it?” LaFleur said on Monday.
WHAT'S NOT WORKING
The Packers had to burn a timeout after confusion raced up and down the sideline following only the third play from scrimmage on Sunday. The Green Bay offense had just 10 men on the field and Allen Lazard raced on late. The wasted timeout, which came with 13:35 on the clock in the first quarter, did not prove to be costly. But it was a communication issue, something that plagued the Packers early in the season and in their first matchup against the 49ers in Week 12.
Tyler Ervin. Green Bay claimed Ervin off waivers from the Jaguars early last month, and the running back and return specialist has proven to be a nice versatile option for LaFleur's offense.
Ervin had an 18-yard run on Sunday and continued to prove to be a major upgrade on both the kickoff and punt return.
“You watch him and watch his progression and see how easy he's picking things up and how fast he's learning the offense and you start expanding that role,” LaFleur said of the fourth-year veteran. “He's a unique talent because he has some of that same versatility that Aaron Jones has. So we'll continue to try to mix him in within our offensive scheme as well.”
“Aaron reached out to me and told me he needed me,” Graham said. “So I just made sure I was ready, and made sure that I brought the juice and brought energy.”
The Packers often use formations with three tight ends, but it looks as if Rodgers is going to try to lean more on Graham and less on Tonyan as Green Bay looks to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Lazard tweaked the same ankle that has been giving him problems, and Bryan Bulaga sat out Sunday with what LaFleur called a “24-hour bug" and not the flu that struck several Green Bay players. Both are expected to be at full strength for the NFC championship game. Fullback Danny Vitale, who did not play Sunday, said Monday that he's feeling better after his bout with the flu.
2 - Za’Darius Smith (two sacks) and Preston Smith (two sacks) became just the second duo in team history on Sunday to have at least two sacks in the same postseason game (Mike Neal and Nick Perry accomplished the feat against Washington in the playoffs after the 2015 regular season).
Green Bay now prepares for a rematch against the 49ers in San Francisco, where they got thumped 37-8 on Nov. 24 and then bounced back to win six straight.
“I gotta go back and watch that tape again to really try to grasp what happened and why it happened and how can we adjust and what are we going to do to make sure it doesn't happen. That'll happen over the next couple days," LaFleur said.
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