It wasn't quite a Dan Marino redux in Miami, as Aaron Rodgers's fake spike, which fooled as many Packers as it did Dolphins, didn't come on the winning touchdown. (It merely put Green Bay in prime position for that on the next play.) But we'll never not stop to appreciate an elegant bit of football trickery, especially one that fooled Rodgers's own intended target.
With the Packers down four and the clock ticking out its final seconds, Rodgers hurried his team to the line of scrimmage at the Miami 20, miming his intention to spike the ball. That probably was his intention, until he saw Cortland Finnegan playing a good ten yards off the line of scrimmage. So Rodgers decided on a little bit of, as he put it, "freestyling."
"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."
Here's the amazing part: rookie receiver Davante Adams, who did everything right in hauling in the pass, breaking a tackle, and still managing to get out of bounds after a 12-yard gain, had no warning a pass was coming. This wasn't a designed play. As far as Adams was concerned, Rodgers really was going to spike the ball, and he didn't learn otherwise until everyone else on the field did. He just reacted faster.
Adams was coy about this, as it's probably in his and the Packers' interests to make them seem like a well-oiled machine with all kinds of tricks up their sleeves.
"He does what he does," Adams said, carefully keeping his answer vague. "It's little, subtle signals and things like that. We have a million of them. You've just got to see the right thing."
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But Adams couldn't or wouldn't identify any specific sign from Rodgers, because there was none other than eye contact. And Rodgers's comments to Peter King make clear that the first time Rodgers attempted to lock eyes with Adams, Adams didn't notice.
"I was looking at Davante Adams,'' he said from the Packers' bus, on the way to the Fort Lauderdale airport late Sunday afternoon, "but he wasn't looking at me. In a situation like that, you want to make eye-contact so he knows something might be coming. But not this time. He didn't know what I was going to do."
You can see it in the video. Rodgers takes the snap, and only Randall Cobb, to his left, starts moving (apparently of his own volition). Everyone else on both sides of the ball, including Adams, stays still as Rodgers fakes a spike. But Rodgers keeps rolling out, and Adams's surprise once he notices is visible. "Davante wasn't looking at me initially," Rodgers said, "but after he saw me, probably moving, he looked and I threw it."
Rodgers was out on a limb, but it was a sturdy one. He believed he had time, given the cushion the Dolphins DBs were giving, and knew he could always clock the ball if things went sour. Still, it takes some serious balls—or some serious faith—to rely on a rookie's instincts as the key cog in your ad-libbed, game-changing trick play.
"The only way to build trust with your receivers,'' Rodgers said, "is to trust them to make plays. Work with them, practice with them, show them if they work hard you're going to them. I told Davante, 'I'm really proud of you.' ''
I wonder if Rodgers realizes it's a lot easier to trust receivers when their quarterback is Aaron Rodgers.