GREEN BAY – The hooded one, seemingly devoid of emotion and all things that make humans identifiable as living, breathing creatures, blinked first.
It was a group effort, for sure, but rookie wide receiver Davante Adams should get a lot of credit for the Green Bay Packers’ 26-21 victory over the New England Patriots.
Not long after I tweeted this …
... did Bill Belichick, the Emperor Palpatine of the NFL, do exactly that.
The Patriots head coach began the game with Darrelle Revis singled on Randall Cobb and Brandon Browner on Jordy Nelson. So, Rodgers looked to No. 3 wide receiver Davante Adams in the first quarter, who continually beat Logan Ryan. There were misfires early, but Rodgers and Adams connected enough – three times for 90 yards on six targets – to force Belichick’s hand.
He moved Revis to Nelson and Browner on Adams in the second quarter, which left Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty to chase around Cobb. If they couldn’t handle Adams, they weren’t going to hold down Cobb, who caught four passes for 55 yards to set up a Mason Crosby field goal that made it 16-7 Packers.
"I don’t knock ‘em for it," said Adams. "They’re going to do what they gotta do to try and stop us."
Then, at the end of the first half, Nelson did get the best of Revis on a slant for a 45-yard touchdown with 23 seconds remaining to make it 23-14 Packers. Nelson had been held without a catch the entire first half before that final drive.
"What Davante did early, they had to change it up a little bit," Nelson said.
On the coaching side, to combat the one-on-one matchup problems presented for Cobb with Revis, McCarthy moved him into the backfield to create favorable mismatches – like Cobb on a wheel route beating linebacker Rob Ninkovich easily for 33 yards.
"That was something that we were wondering how they were going to play it," Cobb said of those formations. "We got a good feel for it in the first half and to be able to see those matchups and create matchups and make it a little easier for us."
The Packers offense has struggled this year when Nelson and Cobb haven’t gotten open, and the Patriots presented a unique problem for the offense in that Browner and Revis could cover them without much help. But with Adams playing well, and the tight ends doing just enough (4 catches, 52 yards, TD), it forced an adjustment that ultimately worked in the Packers’ favor.
"We talked this week about making the most of your opportunities and the fact that they’re a matchup team," Rodgers said. "So we needed to win those matchups up front and then obviously on the perimeter, so we challenged those guys before the game to win those matchups and Davante did a great job."
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is listed at 6-foot, 6-inches and 265 pounds. Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton Dix? Six-foot, 1-inch, 208 pounds. Clinton-Dix had already tried to bring "Gronk" down high earlier in the game, and quickly realized the folly in such an endeavor. But he wanted to remain a physical presence throughout the game, let him – and Tom Brady – know he was there.
And, for the most part, Clinton-Dix and his teammates in the defensive backfield held their own. Gronkowski had seven catches for a quiet 98 yards, but more importantly, no touchdowns for 56 minutes and 29 seconds of the game.
But on 2nd-and-9 from the Green Bay 20 with 3:31 left, Clinton-Dix knew Brady and "Gronk" were coming at him.
"Most definitely," he said with a sheepish smile. "I’m the rookie. I’m the youngest one of the pack, so I knew they were going to try to challenge me and I was up for it."
The ball found Gronkowski’s hands in the end zone, but Clinton-Dix made sure to keep his hands on the big tight end as well – and he eventually wrestled the ball out.
"It couldn’t get any better," Burnett said of Clinton-Dix’s effort. "He didn’t give up. He kept fighting for it, and boom, knocked the ball up. That’s a thing of beauty."
"I am pretty sure I caught it, but at the last second the defensive back made a nice play and hit it out of my hands," Gronkowski said. "It was a good play by him. When my number is called, I have to come down with that play."
A play later, Mike Daniels and Mike Neal sacked Brady. Stephen Gostkowski missed a 47-yard field goal after that.
Clinton-Dix and the Packers defense had made the plays to win a game.
"(Julius Peppers) always talks about it in meetings and before practice, he says he wants the defense to go out and close a game for once and I think we did that tonight," Clinton-Dix said.
Catching a Packers great
Don Beebe was introduced during the pregame festivities as the team honors it’s alumni before every home game, so I dropped the former Packers wide receiver a text – I haven’t seen him since coming to OnMilwaukee.com in the March of 2012 and wanted a chance to catch up.
I got to know Beebe not as an NFL player, but as a head coach with Aurora Christian, a private school in Aurora, Ill. I covered Beebe’s Eagles football team – he was their volunteer head coach – for several years, including two seasons in which he ran an offense that set state records (in 2008) and eventually won back-to-back state titles (2011, 2012).
We spoke right when I moved here for a "Milwaukee Talks" interview, and again a few months later when his biography was published.
Well, Sunday presented that opportunity to catch up in person as he was at Lambeau for the first time in around seven years. His son Chad, now a wide receiver at Northern Illinois University, was with him, too.
As we chatted outside the alumni box, I found out Beebe is done coaching, at least for now, as his life story is headed to either the silver screen or a television network. It was funny though, because as we talked, Nelson had broken away for his 45-yard touchdown catch and run before the end of the half.
Both Beebe’s – both wide receivers – wanted to see the replay to see what kind of route he had run, and how McCarthy had moved him around for a better matchup. Once a receiver, always a receiver.
By the numbers
- It seems like it happens every week, but Sunday marked a new Lambeau Field attendance record with 78,431 squeezing in.
- Cobb and Nelson became the first pair of Packers wide receivers to catch 10 touchdowns in the same season.
- Nelson has six touchdown catches of at least 40 yards this season, most in the NFL.
- Mason Crosby tied former kicker Ryan Longwell’s franchise record with his eighth 100-point season.
You said it
If this is a Super Bowl preview, we are all spoiled. — @twiqball (@twiqball) December 1, 2014
Tweet of the night
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.