Not but two months ago, the football world at large was up in arms about all the questions surrounding Aaron Rodgers' play. Legitimate questions were posed about whether the Packers starter still ranked among the NFL's elite tier of quarterbacks. In-season think pieces flew in, running the gamut of off-field hypotheses as to why Rodgers wasn't performing at the level we'd grown accustomed to seeing throughout his career.
While it might have been fair to question some of what Rodgers put on tape in the early part of the season, nights like tonight make those early-season storylines feel like something out of a hazy mid-October dream.
With the season looking like it hung in the balance for the storied franchise, Rodgers put together an artwork of a performance. Against an Eagles defense that had allowed a lowly 64.1 passer rating and had yet to lose in Philadelphia, Rodgers went for 313 yards and a pair of touchdowns at 8.0 yards per attempt.
On passes where the targeted receiver had less than a yard of separation, Aaron Rodgers had an 83.3 completion rate and racked up 94 yards on six attempts. Rodgers' completion rate and yards gained on throws into tight windows were the highest marks of any quarterback on the week.
This is in line with what we've seen all year from Rodgers despite the criticism levied against him. His 56.3 completion percentage on tight window throws leads the NFL whereas the average quarterback completes just 43 percent of these passes.
Aaron Rodgers - Completions into Tight Windows
Jordy Nelson: 1st quarter, 10 yards
Jared Cook: 1st quarter, 7 yards
Davante Adams: 1st quarter, 20 yards - TD
Davante Adams: 3rd quarter, 50 yards
Jordy Nelson: 3rd quarter, 7 yards
Rodgers' first quarter completion to Jared Cook and third quarter throw to Jordy Nelson both came on third down to help keep drives alive, both of which ended in scores. Davante Adams scored on the next play of the drive that Cook's reception extended. Rodgers' tight-window throw to Nelson came in the third quarter drive that eventually led to Aaron Ripkowski punching in the first rushing touchdown on the Packers' season scored by someone other than Rodgers.
The aforementioned Adams was the pivot man for the Green Bay passing game tonight. In the second prime-time game of the season where he put an exclamation point on his bounce-back season, Adams displayed just how he's set his career back on track.
After being plagued by drops, miscues and coming up small in big moments in 2015, Adams came into Week 12 of 2016 leading the NFL with an 85.7 percent catch rate when targeted on tight window throws.
He's in some high-end company for the leaderboard in the metric, and lapping the field with his success rate.
Top-five WR Catch Rates with less than one yard of separation (2016)
Davante Adams: 87.5 percent catch rate on 16 targets
Stefon Diggs: 70.0 percent catch rate on 20
Anquan Boldin: 65.0 percent catch rate on 20
Julio Jones: 61.5 percent catch rate on 26 targets
Steve Smith: 61.5 percent catch rate on 13 targets
Adams' catch rate widened his gap at the top of the league by hauling in two more catches in tight coverage tonight. Much like Rodgers' throws to Cook and Nelson on third down, they were noticeable big plays. His first touchdown of the night came on a 20-yard catch where he was gifted perfect placement by his quarterback. The second catch in tight coverage came on a gorgeous 50-yard bomb where Adams made a strong adjustment to track the ball while going against Leodis McKelvin. The third-year receiver began to integrate more downfield ability into his game two weeks ago against the Titans, and looks to have almost fully usurped that role from Jordy Nelson.
Yet, what these two players not only taught us tonight, but over the course of the 2016 season, is that we must be open-minded to change in what we're observing. Adams took what looked to be a career headed nowhere, resurged it and is now a viable piece of his team's offense. Regardless of whether you put some of the down moments of the Packers season at his feet or not, Rodgers is doing exactly what the great players in this league always do: they don't stay down for long.
If Green Bay intends to right the course of a season filled with low moments, it may just be on the back of this duo's performances in the biggest ones.