Packers' Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams cap 'special' year, look for more in playoffs

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The time for individual accolades is over.

Not before Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams finished the occasion in style.

Not that the Green Bay Packers record-setting quarterback and receiver will spend much time reflecting on it now but with the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs (and the bye this week that goes with it) in their back pocket, who could blame them if they took a moment to enjoy it before they find out which team will come to Lambeau Field for a divisional round game?

The important thing that occurred Sunday was the Packers' 35-16 win over the Chicago Bears in the regular-season finale at Soldier Field. It gave them their second straight 13-3 regular season in as many years with Matt LaFleur as coach.

They accomplished it in part because of what Rodgers and Adams pulled off over 16 weeks. Well, 14 for Adams, who may have put together the greatest season by a receiver in Packers history despite missing two full games (and half of another) because of a hamstring injury.

"I'll tell you what I told Tae in the locker room: I said, '13½ games and you just had the greatest season by a Packer receiver in history,'" Rodgers said Sunday. "And I meant it. And it got me emotional and it gets me emotional in this moment. I just have a ton of respect and appreciation for him and what he's accomplished. It's been an unbelievable year. He's just such a special, special player."

Adams set the single-season franchise record for catches (115, breaking Sterling Sharpe's record of 112) and tied the record for touchdown catches (18, matching Sharpe). But Sharpe hit those marks in different seasons (the catch record in 1993 and the touchdown record in 1994).

"It feels good, man. It feels good," Adams said. "I would've been happy regardless, just getting this bye, having everything go through Lambeau, move out of this place and just get back and have a week's rest. It definitely feels good. Been putting in a lot of hard work and have come up short of a few different things in my career. So, it feels good to be able to achieve that."

But Adams sounded more interested in heaping praise on his quarterback, who threw four touchdowns on Sunday to finish with a team-record 48 (against only five interceptions).

"The MVP should be locked up," Adams said of Rodgers. "There's nothing else to really talk about. You look at what we've done and what he's been able to do, and they've hit him with everything. Said he didn't have any weapons, and we go out there and go 13-3 regular season, which isn't our main goal, obviously, but it's a hell of an accomplishment, especially when you're in your second year with a new staff.

"So it says a lot about him. I could talk all day about his MVP push and all of that, but I think he's allowed his play to step up and do that."

A deeper look at Rodgers' numbers show that he not only led the NFL in touchdown passes -- by eight over his nearest competitor -- but finished with the highest completion percentage (70.2%), Total QBR (83.7) and passer rating (121.5).

Rodgers became just the third player all time to throw more touchdown passes (48) than his team had punts (46), joining Tom Brady in 2007 and Patrick Mahomes in 2018, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

Incorporating more of coach Matt LaFleur's scheme in Year 2 showed up in the play-action numbers:

  • 23 touchdown passes off play-action, the most by a quarterback since ESPN began tracking those plays in 2006.

  • 14 touchdown passes with a man in motion at the snap, the most by a quarterback since ESPN began tracking those plays in 2017.

  • 28 touchdown passes with any kind of pre-snap motion, also the most by a quarterback since 2017.

  • One-quarter of his touchdown passes (12 of 48) traveled 20-or-more yards in the air, tied for the most in his career (2011) and tied for the most this season with Mahomes.

"Those guys are just the best at what they do," LaFleur said of Rodgers and Adams. "I know that, in my opinion, it's not even close, in terms of what Aaron, not only what he does on the field but what he brings to this team and then Tae -- I can't even find the words to articulate what he's able to do and the value he brings to our football team."

LaFleur's challenge now, among other things, is to make sure that connection continues in the playoffs. Sunday's game against the Bears provided a glimpse of what that might be like. The Bears held Adams to just two catches for 18 yards over the first three quarters before he caught four passes for 28 yards and a touchdown over two consecutive drives in the fourth quarter.

"Their entire focus was on taking Davante out of the game," Rodgers said. "Even with a premier corner in Kyle [Fuller], there was help on his side almost every single play."

Adams said there was conversation, one initiated by the coaches on the sideline during the second half, about getting Rodgers and Adams reconnected.

"You have to get your best players the ball," LaFleur said. "I think that's what happened in the fourth quarter."

And it's what has happened most of the season, which began with the Packers drafting Rodgers' possible eventual replacement in the first round (when they traded up to pick Jordan Love) and ignoring the receiver spot in one of the deepest receiver drafts in NFL history.

"This is a special season," Rodgers said. "This will always be a special season for me. It's been a special year as well. I don't like to harp on it a whole lot. I know I've talked probably too much about my mental state and what I've been working on. It's such a difficult time for so many people.

"I've really just tried to have a good perspective, an attitude of gratitude, and just to really enjoy every moment of this season. And that's why although it might not have been the most fun, just because I miss the fans, it was maybe the most special regular season."