Career-best game not quite enough for humble star Jordy Nelson
GREEN BAY, Wis. — It was the biggest game of Jordy Nelson’s career, but even 209 receiving yards to help the Green Bay Packers to a comeback win over the New York Jets didn’t have the star wide receiver entirely satisfied.
"I left some plays out there, honestly," Nelson said. "I had some opportunities to make more plays and didn’t do it."
Nelson was obviously a harsh critic of himself, as he certainly made more than his share of plays Sunday. Catching nine passes from Aaron Rodgers — including an 80-yard touchdown that gave the Packers the winning score — led to Nelson blowing away his previous career high, 162 receiving yards set in Week 17 of the 2011 season.
"You just don’t want to get stuck at 195 or 190 (yards)," Nelson said. "One-hundred ninety is good, 199 is great, but 200 just sounds better."
It wasn’t just personal records that Nelson set. It was the first time in nearly a decade that a Green Bay receiver had at least 200 yards (Javon Walker had 200 exactly in 2004). Plus, it tied for the fourth-most receiving yards in Packers history, equaling what Don Hutson accomplished in a 1942 game against the Cleveland Rams.
"Jordy spoils us," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "He plays that way all the time. He practices the same way. He’s just a clutch, clutch player."
Rodgers has targeted Nelson an alarming amount in Green Bay’s first two games this season. In the Week 1 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Rodgers went to Nelson on 14 of his 33 pass attempts. In Sunday’s win over New York, Rodgers tried to get Nelson the ball on 16 of 42 passes. Combined, that’s 40 percent of Rodgers’ throws being sent to Nelson.
"Well, he’s . . . he’s pretty impressive," Rodgers said. "You take it for granted sometimes. He’s not a big ‘me’ guy or pumping himself a lot, so he kind of gets overlooked at times. But we know around here what kind of player he is. The people in the league, I think, have a lot of respect for him, too — and they will, especially if they watch this film."
Despite signing a four-year, $39 million contract extension this offseason, it’s very possible that Nelson is still underpaid. Not that he’d ever complain about such a matter — as his post-extension comments about no NFL player being worth what they’re paid can attest, but even with a very good career so far, 2014 might be the season that Nelson is finally named to his first Pro Bowl or first All-Pro team.
Nelson showed several of his best traits on his 80-yard touchdown reception when his out-and-up move got him past Jets 2013 first-round pick cornerback Dee Milliner, then forcing big-hitting 2014 first-round pick safety Calvin Pryor to miss a tackle before outrunning everyone on the field to get in the end zone.
It’s a play that reminded Packers cornerback Sam Shields of the many times he’s seen Nelson do something similar in practice.
"Jordy, he’s explosive, fast, and he gives you that stutter and you bite on it, that’s it," Shields said. "A lot of people just look at you and be like, ‘Oh, I don’t think he’s fast.’ Jordy, he’s got that creep-up speed, and you’re like, ‘Oh, man, this dude’s fast,’ and you’ve got to get on your horses, but it’d be too late."
Through two games, Nelson is on pace for 2,336 receiving yards and 144 catches. While those numbers are incredibly unlikely to continue over a 16-game season, that would be nearly 700 yards more than the NFL’s top receiver in 2013, Josh Gordon. Even the great Calvin Johnson has never surpassed 2,000 receiving yards in any one season.
"It’s fun," Nelson said of having such a big game. "It’s enjoyable. It’s what I guess needed to be done to win the game. That’s all that matters. If it proves your worth, I don’t think that really matters at all. We want to go out and do our job. That’s all we want to do."
The only problem — at least in Nelson’s mind — with posting such impressive numbers is that the Packers opted to have him address the media from the McCarthy and Rodgers podium rather than the regular spot in front of his locker. A star-player type of game deserved post-game star treatment.
"I’m going to hate this," Nelson said before beginning his press conference, "so go ahead."
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