There were no deep balls over the defense. There were no catch-and-run 60-yard gains.
But Jordy Nelson was back, and he made his presence felt in the Green Bay Packers’ victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Nelson caught six passes, and while they went for just 32 yards, he did score a touchdown.
“Obviously, great to be back out there helping the team win a game,” Nelson told reporters. “Getting in the end zone's always fun, especially getting the first one out of the way and get the first win. Sometimes it's hard to get the first one, especially on the road. Big win. It's a good start.”
If not for the circumstances, this game wouldn’t rank among Nelson’s career highlights. After all, from 2008 through 2014, Nelson scored 21 touchdowns of longer than 32 yards. That includes seven in 2014. He only had 32 yards on Sunday. But considering this was Nelson’s first game since sustaining a torn ACL in August 2015, this was a good next step in his comeback.
“When I was out there, I wasn't even thinking about it,” said Nelson, who played 54 of 64 snaps.
Nelson’s 6-yard touchdown catch late in the second quarter gave the Packers a 14-10 lead. It wasn’t anything spectacular. As quarterback Aaron Rodgers bought time in the pocket, the defense seemed to lose track of Nelson. Finally, Rodgers saw Nelson and hit him toward the back of the end zone.
The Packers have won 15 consecutive regular-season games when Nelson catches a touchdown pass from Rodgers, with the last loss being the 2013 opener at San Francisco.
“They were in zone, so I tried to sit in the zone and, obviously, Aaron's great when he gets on the move,” Nelson said. “I like to try to get to the back of the end zone and find a void and he's able to find me. I'm glad it worked out and got connected and got us on the board.”
It wasn’t a big day for Rodgers, either, who played two series in the preseason — none of them with Nelson. He went 20-of-34 for 199 yards and two touchdowns. Better days will be ahead, because Rodgers’ cast of pass-catching characters is as deep as any quarterback in the NFL has at his disposal.
Randall Cobb, who battled through a shoulder injury throughout last season, caught six passes for 57 yards, including a juggling 32-yarder that converted a third-and-10 on the opening drive of the third quarter.
Davante Adams, who missed time with an ankle injury that seemed to ruin his 2015 season, caught three passes for 50 yards and one touchdown. On the third possession, Adams had a chance to make a big play on a third-down bomb but the ball went through his hands; Adams said it was tipped by cornerback Prince Amukamara. The touchdown, a 29-yarder, was the offense’s play of the day. With cornerback Jalen Ramsey grabbing Rodgers from behind and defensive tackle Jared Odrick rushing in Rodgers’ face, Rodgers threw a dart to Adams.
“The core exercises in the offseason” enabled Rodgers to make the throw, he said. “I thought that we had that (blitz) picked up but they brought a good pressure and James (Starks) picked up the will backer and they brought Ramsey off the slot. I kind of slid left, was looking for Randall and kind of saw Davante just over the top of House and tried to give him a chance to make a play and he made a great catch.”
Said Adams of Rodgers’ throw: “I’m never going to doubt that man.”
Tight end Jared Cook caught one pass for 7 yards but kick-started the two-minute touchdown drive at the end of the first half by drawing a pass interference penalty that resulted in a gain of 30.
“It’s great having Jordy back. He did some good things out there,” Rodgers said. “Great second/third reaction on the touchdown. He made a couple nice third-down conversions for us. Davante, been talking about how well he’s been playing. Randall made some nice catches. Cookie didn’t get a lot of opportunities but had a big pass-interference call as he was beating his man down the middle at the end of the first half. Richard (Rodgers) made a nice catch on the sideline and almost another one but dropped it as he went to the ground out of bounds. I’m proud of those guys the way the way they played.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.