MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The Green Bay Packers' offensive line had no idea the fake spike was coming.
Right guard T.J. Lang heard Aaron Rodgers yelling "clock, clock," indicating he planned to spike the ball. Center Corey Linsley heard Rodgers make a protection call, which told him to be ready in case a play was on.
As Rodgers came to the line of scrimmage with the Sun Life Stadium clock running down in Sunday's 27-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins – 15 seconds, 14 seconds, 13 seconds – he raised his right hand and made a fist just before he ducked in under center.
Perhaps that was the signal to receiver Davante Adams.
"Don't be giving away our secrets now," Packers wideout Randall Cobb warned Adams as he was asked about the play.
Whatever the signal was, Adams knew what was coming next. Rodgers took the snap with 12 seconds left, hunched over like he was going to slam the ball into the turf to stop the clock and then dropped back five steps and fired the ball to Adams in the right flat.
Jordy Nelson, who was lined up as the slot receiver on the same side of the field, never even came out of his stance.
"I didn't [know]," Nelson said.
The key was this: Rodgers saw Dolphins cornerback Cortland Finnegan playing well off Adams – at least 10 yards back – as he came to the line of scrimmage.
"It's one of those things that you don't really tell anybody what's going on," Rodgers said. "You're just yelling 'clock' and signaling 'clock' and then right before I snapped it, I looked out to the right and they were way off outside, so I just kind of faked it and moved."
Dolphins fans had seen this before. Their own Dan Marino executed the fake-spike play to beat the New York Jets on Nov. 27, 1994.
Rodgers' masterful decision would have been negated if the rookie Adams didn't have the savvy beyond his years to get out of bounds once he realized he would not reach the end zone. Without a timeout left, anything short of the end zone or the sideline would have ended the game and fueled the cockamamie criticism of Rodgers for his lack of comeback victories.
Adams, who had six catches for 77 yards, caught the ball at the Dolphins' 14-yard line and trucked down the right sideline, where Finnegan and cornerback Jamar Taylor shoved him out of bounds at the 4-yard line with six seconds remaining.
At that point, Rodgers -- whose record improved to 5-13 in games decided by three points or fewer and 7-25 in games in which he has trailed by eight points or fewer in the fourth quarter, according to Football Outsiders -- needed to finish it off.
He might have had enough time to get two chances at the game winner, but when he saw linebacker Philip Wheeler on Andrew Quarless -- a mismatch in his mind -- he changed the call at the line of scrimmage and fired to his tight end in the right corner of the end zone with 3 seconds left, and a drive that started at the Packers' 40-yard line with 2:05 left was completed.
So was the comeback.
"I just told A-Rod just now, 'That was epic for me,'" Quarless said. "He said that was fun for him, too."
As Quarless reached for the sky with the ball in his right hand to celebrate his touchdown, Rodgers ended up on his back. He stayed there for a second or two, pointing in the air as Lang came over to him. The celebration continued on the sideline, where Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy embraced.
There were other factors critical to the final drive – Lang's third-down fumble recovery that set up a fourth-down conversion to Nelson among them – but the fake spike will be the one to remember. It led to Rodgers' second go-ahead touchdown pass in the final minute of a regular-season game; the first came in Week 17 last year to Cobb to beat the Chicago Bears.
"That's how you want it," said Rodgers, who threw three touchdown passes. "You want the opportunity to make a play at the end."