How 49ers contain Packers WR Davante Adams in NFL playoffs
By Peter Panacy
It won’t be easy, but the 49ers have to figure out a way to negate the damage that could be done by Packers wide receiver Davante Adams in the divisional round.
Saying it is one thing. Doing it is another. But the San Francisco 49ers have to figure out a way to ensure Green Bay Packers All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams doesn’t single-handedly beat them.
Adams did a lot of the beating back when these two teams met last, a Week 3 Sunday Night Football thriller that ultimately saw the Niners defeated by a score of 30-28. In that game, Adams put up a whopping 12 receptions for 132 yards and a touchdown.
During the regular season, Adams managed 1,553 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, easily quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ preferred target by a long shot.
All have tried, many have failed. But, if San Francisco wants to pull off a divisional-round win in the NFL playoffs over the Packers this Saturday, it’ll have to figure out a way to limit the damage Adams is capable of doing.
49ers are better equipped to deal with Davante Adams this time around
There are some notable differences between the 49ers defense of Week 3 and the one that’ll grace Lambeau Field in the divisional round.
Notably, that was first-year defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans’ third game in his new role. Ryans has shown massive improvement since the Niners’ defensive woes from earlier this season, even getting San Francisco’s pass defense to the point where it finished the regular season with the sixth-fewest yards allowed (3,510).
The cornerback room has solidified since then, too. No longer trying to navigate the wake left by veteran corner Jason Verrett’s season-ending ACL tear from Week 1, the 49ers have managed to benefit from the return of fellow cornerback Emmanuel Moseley and the steady improvement from rookie corner Ambry Thomas, who played a major role in limiting the Dallas Cowboys’ No. 1 wide receiver, CeeDee Lamb, to just one catch for 21 yards in the Niners’ Wild Card win last weekend.
Adams will still be an even bigger challenge for Thomas and Co., though.
How 49ers must defend against Davante Adams, Packers
Ryans inherited a Cover 3, single-high safety defensive scheme from former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, but going with more two-high safeties is going to be the primary starting point for defending against Adams.
Doug Farrar from USA Today’s Touchdown Wire described how the Baltimore Ravens did this to near perfection back in Week 15, holding Adams to six catches for 44 yards and a touchdown:
"One way NOT to deal with Adams is with single coverage concepts, because Adams then has more room to work to his side, and that’s when your secondary is in a real pickle. This season against single-high coverage (per Sports Info Solutions), Adams has run 203 routes, with 54 catches on 67 targets for 744 yards, and two touchdowns. Against two-high looks, Adams has run 151 routes, with 25 catches on 35 targets for 346 yards and no touchdowns.This is a corrective strategy on the part of NFL defenses after what Adams did to single-high coverage in 2020 …It’s not that Adams can’t catch against two-deep stuff; it’s more that when Aaron Rodgers sees two safeties up top, he knows that the defense is focusing on Adams to an unnatural degree, and he’s going to have open targets elsewhere."
Adams still made his impact felt, scoring that touchdown. But defenses will live with a score if an opposing team’s best offensive player is limited to just 44 yards receiving.
Carrying it a bit further, and perhaps even more enthusiastically, former San Francisco tight end Brent Jones had a simplistic approach, described when he appeared on KNBR 680’s Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks Show this week:
"Whatever you do, do not let [Davante] Adams beat us. Cover Davante Adams. Double cover him. Have a guy hit him at the line, hold him, grab him, frustrate him. I don’t care. Have a guy over the top.I don’t want to see Davante Adams having 170 yards and two touchdowns against us. If we’re going to lose to the Packers, let [running back] Aaron Jones run, let [wide receiver Marquez] Valdes-Scantling catch a pass. Let all of these other guys beat you."
He’s got a valid point: Don’t let Adams beat you.
A strategy might be simple enough, use one of the 49ers linebackers to bump Adams at the line of scrimmage, slowing down his release, then provide two-man coverage on him with a cornerback and safety help over the top.
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Three Niners defenders to stop Adams. That’ll be what it takes.
Sure, it’ll open up bigger chances for Rodgers to hit his depth wide receivers, lesser-known names like Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard.
But, if San Francisco wants to take away Adams at the risk of letting Valdes-Scantling and Lazard have bigger games, so be it. The 49ers should embrace that trade-off.