Admitting to a group of reporters at his locker that he was uncomfortable about articles written this week referring to him as a "white" receiver, Nelson let his play do the talking on Sunday – just like he has all season.
With a season-high 123 receiving yards and two touchdowns, the fourth-year receiver helped a Packers passing attack overcome a pesky Buccaneers secondary on a challenging day.
"Tampa Bay did a great job," said Nelson. "They came in, had their game plan. We knew they were going to try to get up in our face and press us and get us moving and stuff, and they were physical with us."
Perhaps too physical. On a key fourth-quarter touchdown drive by Green Bay, the Buccaneers' secondary committed three penalties – all resulting in first downs. The last penalty – a pass interference call on cornerback E.J. Biggers near the goal line on Donald Driver – set up John Kuhn's 2-yard touchdown run to give the Packers a 28-19 lead with 7:42 remaining.
The Packers' potent passing attack, arguably the best in the league, figured to have its way with the Buccaneers, who came in ranked fifth-worst in the league in pass defense. But quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the receivers were a little off their lofty standards.
Jermichael Finley had just one catch for 30 yards and two drops. Afterward, the outspoken tight end said this about the Buccaneers' defensive plan: "(It was) nothing really. It was just man-to-man press. Something I should've ate up. But I didn't have the game I expected."
That left the door open for Driver (four catches for 72 yards in five targets) and Nelson (six catches in seven targets) to have their most productive performances this season. They, more than any other receiver, took advantage of the aggressive Buccaneers defenders.
"We kind of knew that coming in off the film, they play a lot of bump-and-run, man-to-man," said Nelson. "They get after you. We've just got to keep working on our releases. We feel comfortable in that situation that we're going to make big plays like we did sometimes today."
After misfiring on several potential big plays, the Packers' offense hit a clinching one late in the fourth quarter. Nelson's 40-yard touchdown at the 2:55 mark gave the Packers a 35-26 lead just three plays after a failed onside kick attempt by the Buccaneers. With James Starks having been helped off the field after being stopped at the line of scrimmage to make it third-and-4, they found a situation to their liking.
"It's just the trust that you have in your quarterback and the belief that you have in your receivers to win the one-on-one," said head coach Mike McCarthy of the moment. "(We got) good protection, we got the man coverage we were anticipating. Jordy ran an excellent route and we were able to convert it. It was a big play. Probably the biggest play in the game for us."
Nelson beat cornerback Myron Lewis on a double move down the left sideline and Rodgers beat a Buccaneers blitz with a perfectly lofted pass to close the Packers scoring. While Rodgers' numbers – 23-of-34 for 299 yards and three touchdowns – suggested he had a big day, it may not have felt that way.
"I'm just frustrated," said Rodgers. "I didn't throw the ball very well. I'm not trying to be ridiculously humble right now. I'm just frustrated the ball wasn't coming off the way I wanted it to today. I missed some guys I shouldn't. I had Greg (Jennings) open a couple times and missed him, missed Jordy (Nelson) on a crossing pattern in the third quarter. It's a game where it's an unusual scheme we're playing against. They were playing a lot more man than we usually see. There are some throws, some tighter windows than you usually get maybe and some throws I usually hit that I didn't today. So, that's frustrating, but it's nice we came up with a big drive there at the end and put them away."
There is no denying the rapport that Rodgers has developed with Nelson, who has established himself as the clear No. 2 receiver on the Packers. After his second straight two-touchdown game, Nelson has nine touchdowns on the season, which leads the team. His 18.9 yards per catch ranks among the best in the NFL.
"Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers are really in a groove right now," said McCarthy. "I really feel that way about Aaron with all the receivers. That's why that group is so special. Jordy's just doing a great job. He's so consistent, fundamentally strong, wins his one-on-ones, stacking his routes. That was a big play there on the last third down. I wish I could be more complimentary. He is so consistent and he's the same guy every day, and that's huge on a lot of different fronts, whether you're working with him, throwing the football to him and coaching him. Jordy had an excellent day today."
And with it, Nelson hopes, goes any more questions about being underestimated.
"We're done with this underestimating stuff," said Nelson. "I'm just going out there to try to do my job. I have an assignment on every play, run or pass, and I try to do it to the best of my ability. If it's a pass I have to get open and give Aaron a target so if he comes my way, I'll be able to make a play."
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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at email@example.com