As the Green Bay Packers quarterback approached the line of scrimmage late in the game, he surveyed the defense and saw that the New York Giants had loaded the box, anticipating a run by the team’s touchdown leader, Aaron Jones.
Rodgers knew it would be the perfect time to call Lewis’ number.
Actually, he called out his name -- his nickname, that is.
"All right, Big Dog, Big Dog, Big Dog," Rodgers could be heard as he called an audible.
That’s how the 35-year-old tight end caught his first touchdown in two years with the Packers -- and his first since the 2017 NFC Championship with the Jaguars.
It's evident that Rodgers and Davante Adams like involving others.
Sure, the Rodgers-to-Adams combination has proven effective -- they connected on two touchdowns before Lewis’ score in the 31-13 win over the Giants -- but nothing can incite a celebration like seeing a less involved player get into the act. Rodgers went wild after his 1-yard pass to Lewis with 7:05 left in the game.
The Packers (9-3) aren’t without shortcomings, but team chemistry doesn’t look to be one of them. Rodgers’ touchdown numbers (22 through 12 games) could be considered down, but his smile numbers are way up.
"He’s been enjoying it a lot, you can tell," Adams said. "Even in times when we were going through some adversity, you could see him and Coach, him and the rest of the team, myself, we love showing it out there, interacting because it’s so much fun. It’s the ultimate team sport, so when you come together as one and get it done and play well in all phases, it makes it that much fun."
Rodgers was the first to partake in the celebration after Lewis’ touchdown.
"It comes from just really everybody in this locker room being about each other," Rodgers said. "I get more excited when other people [contribute].
"When 'Big Dog' got in the end zone, I was sprinting over there happy. I think it kind of threw him off. He didn’t have his celebration ready to go, which I’m going to get on him about it. That’s just how we -- we feed off each other’s energy, and we genuinely want each other to succeed so much to where it overshadows anything that we do personally in a game."
That applied to receiver Allen Lazard's three-catch, 103-yard, one-touchdown showing against the Giants that went in the books as his first 100-yard NFL game. This from a player who before this season had one career catch and was cut coming out of training camp, only to be re-signed before the season opener.
"Honestly, I get more excited when my teammates have success than when I do," Adams said. "For him to do that, I’ve said it a bunch of times, for him to be released, his whole story, his whole path, especially this year, I know it means a lot to him, and it means as much to me."
Lewis became the 38th player to catch a touchdown pass from Rodgers in his career, and it was two years in the making. Last season, he was less than an afterthought in the passing game. In 190 snaps, he caught just three passes for 39 yards. He already has 11 catches for 131 yards in 12 games this season.
At 6-foot-6 and 267 pounds, he’s still primarily a blocker, which is part of the reason he earned Rodgers’ utmost respect. That means more to Lewis than his 34th career regular-season touchdown catch.
"Of course it’s special," Lewis said. "But I think it’s even more special because the relationship me and 12 have."
Still, Lewis didn’t know if it would happen, and when Giants linebacker Lorenzo Carter nearly sacked Rodgers as he rolled to his left, it almost didn’t.
"It’s a play that we practice every single week," Lewis said. "It’s one of those plays that you kind of add as an option to your run game, and we practice it every week just in case we get the right look for it. With me, when I come up to the line, guys know that I’m blocking power, I’m blocking ‘iso.’ I’m blocking. You know it could be a possibility, but you don’t because I’m driving guys off the ball. But 12 called it, and the rest is history."
Contributions from the likes of Lewis and Lazard could serve the Packers well down the stretch, when teams no doubt will set their defensive plans around Adams and Jones.
Coach Matt LaFleur’s willingness to expand roles and, perhaps more importantly, listen to his locker room could also serve the team well. Defensive captain Za’Darius Smith revealed that a select group of players met with LaFleur after last week’s blowout loss at the 49ers.
"One thing that he does as coach is that he listens to his players," Smith said. "If he, or we, feel that something isn’t right, we can have a meeting and go talk to him. He works with us. This past week, we had a leadership meeting, so the little things like that with the head coach is big. It seems to be helping us as a team."
Although LaFleur on Monday wouldn’t divulge details of the meeting, he acknowledged that the Packers are probably going to have to change whatever future check Rodgers uses to set up a play for Lewis.
"That was pretty obvious," LaFleur said with a chuckle. "But what a play by those two guys. I mean, that was an incredible play. Not necessarily always the way you draw it up because certainly we don’t want Aaron having to fight through a tackle to get that ball out, but that was an incredible play by those two guys. But we’re going to have to come up with something else for that audible."