GREEN BAY — Dom Capers could read counterpart Rod Marinelli’s mind Sunday afternoon.
The Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator was in the coaches booth high above the field at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. And while he would have preferred it if his guys had prevented the Dallas Cowboys’ final touchdown — an 11-yard Dak Prescott run with 1:13 left in regulation — he also knew 73 seconds was an eternity for his team’s quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, to bail out the Packers.
Of course, that’s exactly what Rodgers did, orchestrating a nine-play, 75-yard drive that ended in his 12-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams with 11 seconds left for a 35-31 victory.
Rodgers started the drive with 14-yard completions to Adams and Martellus Bennett; rookie running back Aaron Jones delivered a huge 15-yard run and wisely got out of bounds to stop the clock; and Rodgers escaped for an 18-yard scramble two plays before the touchdown.
“Exactly what you’re looking for,” coach Mike McCarthy said.
And exactly what the Cowboys, who got the ball with 9:56 left and down 28-24, were hoping to avoid. The way Prescott and their offense operated, it was clear they wanted to use up as much of that time as they could before scoring and again subjecting their defense to Rodgers’ late-game magic, which he showed in the teams’ NFC divisional playoff meeting nine months earlier.
“First of all, I’m glad I don’t have to put together a game plan and I’m glad I’m on his team as opposed to the opponent,” Capers said with a chuckle Monday afternoon. “Yeah, as a defensive coach, believe me, you’re thinking, ‘Run every second off that clock that you possibly can.’
“Just think about the playoff game last year down there. You go through something like that and the two-minute drive was probably as perfectly executed as it could be. He’s a confident guy that knows what to go to and got us in the right things. He did a tremendous job. What a game, in terms of being able to take that ball down there and do what he did.”
Adams, Jones shine
Two players who helped Rodgers immensely were Adams, who called for the ball after Rodgers couldn’t connect with him on an earlier pass into the end zone, and Jones, who was inactive for the season opener and wouldn’t even have been playing if the Packers hadn’t lost starting running back Ty Montgomery (ribs) and No. 2 back Jamaal Williams (knee) on Sept. 28 against Chicago.
Adams caught seven passes for 66 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to open the Packers’ scoring before closing it out with the 12-yard back-shoulder grab. Jones gave the struggling run game a huge lift with his 125-yard performance, one that included a touchdown run and a crucial fourth-down conversion.
Adams, who left Lambeau Field in an ambulance after a helmet-to-helmet hit knocked him out and sent him to the hospital with a concussion during the victory over Chicago, was cleared Saturday and played all but four of the offensive snaps against the Cowboys.
Adams enters Sunday’s game against NFC North-rival Minnesota tied for the team lead in receptions (23) and leading the team in receiving yards (285). His four touchdown catches trail only Jordy Nelson’s six.
“There was a never a doubt of, ‘Can Davante Adams be an excellent, top-notch NFL football player?’ But it’s a process. Every player goes through it. You have ups and downs,” McCarthy said. “He’s the real deal.”
Jones appears to be, too, though McCarthy now says he’d like to get Montgomery, Williams, Jones and the team’s third rookie running back, Devante Mays, all involved in the run game — not just the 1-2 punch Jones and Montgomery could be.
“I hope I have a 1-4 punch. That’s why we drafted three running backs,” McCarthy said. “But it takes time. It’s a young man’s league, I get it. Aaron had an opportunity, and man, he cashed in. I’m proud of him.”
Asked why Nelson wasn’t on the field for the final touchdown drive, McCarthy would only reiterate Nelson was being “evaluated” but wouldn’t say for what. Asked about a report that Nelson had hurt his hamstring, McCarthy called it “inaccurate.” … McCarthy said his message to his team was about “improvement” and a host of mistakes made against the Cowboys. “Hey, we’re happy to be where we are, 4-1,” McCarthy said. “But we need to play better.” … While praising inside linebacker Blake Martinez, McCarthy did mention the questionable personal foul flag thrown at him before the Cowboys’ first touchdown. “I didn’t see that as a penalty,” McCarthy said. ... McCarthy said cornerback Damarious Randall, who had a pick-6 and a key fourth-quarter pass break-up after being benched and sent to the locker room last week, “made improvement.” McCarthy said he didn’t think “the intention was there” on Randall’s taunting penalty, “I can definitely see why (the officials) called it.”