In 2014, Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson had five touchdown catches of 59-plus yards. That was more 59-yard receptions — touchdown or nontouchdown — than 30 of the other 31 teams.
Talk about dominance.
In 2016, Nelson is dominating in a different fashion.
Sitting at his locker on Friday, Nelson hadn’t seen the numbers — and had no interest in seeing them — but Nelson has been Mr. Red Zone.
Heading into Sunday's game at Chicago, Nelson leads the NFL with 10 red-zone touchdown receptions. That’s by far the most in the league, with no other player having more than six. If that’s not enough dominance, check this out: Only three other players started this week with more red-zone receptions than Nelson has red-zone touchdowns. Nelson’s 17 total red-zone receptions are five more than Detroit’s Anquan Boldin.
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Perhaps the most noteworthy of those touchdowns came last week against Seattle. It came on what the team calls a “second-reaction play.” After the initial play broke down, Nelson adjusted his route against safety Kam Chancellor. Nelson pointed to a spot for Aaron Rodgers to throw the football, Rodgers saw it and the result was seven points.
“I don’t know why I did it,” Nelson said, adding that he’d never done that midplay before. “Sometimes when you get into scramble mode, it becomes backyard football. I just happened to do it. My main thing of doing it was to let him know, ‘Throw it and then I’m going to react.’ I didn’t want to react and then the DB reacts and then he’d throw it. Chancellor was face-guarding me, so that was my way of communicating of, ‘Throw the ball and I’ll go get it,’ instead of him waiting for me to move and then throw.”
That “backyard football” comparison is a pretty good one.
“I did that when I was, like, 10. I told my buddy to throw it over here, right?” receivers coach Luke Getsy said. “To me, that’s what that reminded me of, just that instinctual football player, two guys that have probably done that a bunch of times on the practice field being able to recognize. He didn’t say, ‘Throw it over here,’ he just put a hand (out), Aaron recognized it and put it to the spot. Jordy did a great job being patient and let the ball be thrown, then go and attack it. He attacked it. That relationship (and) Jordy’s unique instincts make it special.”
With his size and connection with Rodgers, Nelson has consistently produced in the red zone. From 2010 through 2014, he scored 23 red-zone touchdowns. That’s 4.6 per season, which shows you just how remarkable this season has been.
“Because he’s pretty good,” Getsy said in trying to explain Nelson’s production. “He’s a smart player, he’s got great instincts and he catches the ball really well. All those things are really important in those tight windows, those tight spaces. Then, obviously, the time he’s spent with Aaron as much as anything. Their experience of knowing where each other is going to be, when they’re going to be there, what kind of ball to expect. When you get down there, things are tight, and sometimes people react a little different than you prepared. To be able to counteract that quickly is something Jordy does a very good job of.”