Receiver Jordy Nelson said there wasn’t one player in the Packers locker room that wasn’t “sky-high” for Matt Flynn after his record-setting performance on Sunday.
But Nelson is in the process of climbing higher and higher in the team record books, as well.
With three touchdown receptions in Green Bay’s 45-41 victory over Detroit, Nelson finished the regular season with 15, becoming just the third Packers player to hit that number.
Sterling Sharpe caught 18 touchdown passes in 1994 and Don Hutson had 17 in 1942 (in 11 games). Next on the single-season list now is Nelson, who had five TDs in his last two games – unfortunately for him it occurred after the Pro-Bowl voting was tabulated.
“Obviously, it’s an honor,” said Nelson, who set career highs with 162 yards and the three scores and is an alternate for the Pro Bowl. Nelson’s nine catches also matched his career best from Super Bowl XLV.
“We’ve always said whenever you’re getting up there in the record books in this organization, if it’s wins, if it’s stats, if it’s Super Bowls, whatever, it’s an honor because you know the teams that have been through this stadium and this organization.
“It’s an honor to have your name there, but the work is not done, yet.”
The players on Green Bay’s offense talked about their work being a lot of fun on Sunday as the Packers rolled up 550 yards, third most in a single game in team history.
Nelson’s last two TD catches on Sunday were gorgeous plays – a leaping 36-yard grab just inside the boundary on a free play when the Lions jumped offside, and a 58-yard strike on the type of play-action bomb he seems to haul in with regularity.
Four of Flynn’s team-record six TD passes were 35 yards or longer, including an 80-yard screen pass to Ryan Grant, which was the longest reception by a Green Bay running back in 45 years (Elijah Pitts, 80 yards, vs. L.A. Rams, Sept. 25, 1966). Donald Driver’s 35-yard TD in the fourth quarter was his longest scoring play since last December, while tight end Jermichael Finley’s game-winning 4-yard TD catch with 1:10 left was his career-high eighth score on the season.
“If it has to be a shootout, then you have to make it fun, and that was a fun game,” Driver said.
It wasn’t quite so enjoyable for the defense. Missing starters Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson, who were resting for the playoffs, the Packers gave up 520 passing yards and five TDs to Detroit’s Matthew Stafford. The yardage total is the most by any QB against the Packers in team history, topping the 503 by Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger two seasons ago.
If Nelson was upstaged by anyone, it was Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson, who had 11 catches for 244 yards and one TD. Johnson’s 244 receiving yards shattered the previous record for the most against the Packers in one game, a mark that had stood for 62 years (Gene “Choo-Choo” Roberts, New York Giants, 212 yards on Nov. 13, 1949).
Johnson’s performance was a far cry from his outing on Thanksgiving in Detroit, when he had just four receptions and a garbage-time TD against the Packers, one of the few games this season he was rendered a nonfactor.
“He hit some holes and obviously he’s a big guy and he’s hard to bring down,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “He had a good day today.”
Perhaps it was fitting that on another rough day defensively, the Packers sealed the game with an interception. This clincher came from Sam Shields at the Green Bay 22-yard line with 25 seconds left.
The interception was the Packers’ 31st of the season, the most by a Green Bay team since 1962. Statistically, the Packers defense is difficult to decipher, allowing the most passing yards in a season in NFL history (4,796) but leading the league in interceptions at the same time.
“Give credit to Matt Stafford,” said cornerback Jarrett Bush, who moved up to the nickel slot with Woodson resting. “He throws the ball well. He gave us hell back there.
“Sometimes, stuff happens. It’s football. In the end, it’s who gets the ‘W’ and who gets the ‘L.’”
Indeed it is, and the Packers now have 15 “W’s” as they enter the postseason looking for three more.
“I think it carries over in a good way,” defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said of the dramatic victory. “In the end we still found a way to win, and that’s the most important thing. We had to make a play at the end of the game to win it.
“We talked about it all week, having the best record in Packers history, sweeping the division. We’re happy to accomplish it, especially the way Matt played. It wouldn’t have been right if we didn’t get the win for him.” Additional coverage - Jan. 1