Packers need full Nelson
GREEN BAY — Jordy Nelson has never had trouble with perspective. And he’s rarely had trouble catching the football.
So yes, the Green Bay Packers Pro Bowl wide receiver knows that he’s at least partially to blame for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the Seattle Seahawks being in Seattle instead of at Lambeau Field. He still believes that had he caught Aaron Rodgers’ deep ball to him during the Packers’ 21-13 loss at Buffalo on Dec. 14, it absolutely would have been a 94-yard touchdown, and the Packers would have won the game.
That loss – and, by extension, that drop – is why the Packers will have to face the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, where Seattle owns an NFL-best 24-2 home record since the start of the 2012 season. The Packers, who’d won five straight until that game, haven’t lost since, winning their last two regular-season games before beating Dallas in the NFC Divisional Playoff round last Sunday at Lambeau Field.
“Buffalo,” Nelson said. “I blew that one.”
During a year in which he set the single-season franchise record for receiving yards (1,519) and caught a career-high 98 passes, Nelson has held onto just about everything – except that ball and the disappointment that came after it.
“For as bizarre as it was, I think it made it easier to get over. It was more baffling than anything, and I moved on pretty good,” Nelson explained in an interview in advance of Sunday’s NFC title game. “Part of it was my son was waiting for me when I got home and said, ‘Dad, it’s not that bad.’
“[Catch that ball], we’re playing here. I understand it. But I moved on and I’m fine with it. Will I ever forget it? No. There are plays in high school I haven’t forgotten.”
What’s more important than where Sunday’s game is played, though, is how productive Nelson will be. That the Packers were able to beat the Cowboys last Sunday with Nelson having his least impactful game of the season (two receptions, 22 yards) was a break from the way the rest of the season has gone.
In the Packers’ four losses this season – at Seattle on Sept. 4, at Detroit on Sept. 21, at New Orleans on Oct. 26 and at Buffalo on Dec. 14 – Nelson caught a total of 22 passes for 222 yards and no touchdowns, an average of 5.5 catches for 55.5 yards per game.
In the Packers’ 13 victories, including last Sunday’s anomaly, Nelson caught 78 passes for 1,319 yards and 13 touchdowns – an average of six receptions for 101.5 yards and a touchdown per game.
Of the Packers’ four losses this season, his most statistically productive game was against the Seahawks, when he caught nine passes for 83 yards. But he was also targeted an inordinate number of times (14 times, his third-highest target total in a game this season) as the Packers didn’t throw a single pass at Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, who was lined up on the opposite side of the field.
The advanced analytics site Pro Football Focus has Nelson for nine drops this season, although only two of them came in defeats. Nelson’s drops were at Seattle (one, resulting in a Rodgers interception), against the New York Jets (two), at Miami (one), against Philadelphia (two), against New England (one), at Buffalo (one) and against Dallas (one).
The Packers were able to overcome Nelson’s lack of production against the Cowboys because rookie Davante Adams had seven catches for 117 yards. Against the Seahawks, the Packers need Nelson to be productive.
“He’s a great player. We’ve got to find ways to get him the football,” Rodgers said on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com Tuesday. “We’ll continue to do that. Other guys need to step up, too.”
Rodgers said Nelson doesn’t worry about his numbers – “I’m happy when we win and I know he is, too,” Rodgers said – but both know that he’ll be vital on Sunday.
“I don’t think every receiver is going to go out to Seattle and put up 150 yards and three touchdowns,” Nelson said. “I think when we lose, you could probably look at the same thing with Aaron. Obviously his numbers aren’t going to be as good. It’s just a combination of things. Every game is different. I think a lot of it is execution. The Buffalo game, I catch one pass, I’m over 100 yards and a touchdown and we probably win the game.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.
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