They’re the hot, new pass-catch combination in the league, but it wasn’t a good day to make the point to either Aaron Rodgers or Jordy Nelson.
“I’m not worried about that. I’m just here to do my job,” Nelson said following a day that saw him catch six passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns, the second of which was a 40-yarder that clinched a 35-26 win that kept the Packers undefeated at 10-0.
Among a receiving corps that includes Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley, Nelson has in recent weeks become Rodgers’ go-to guy, having caught five touchdown passes in the last three games. On a day when both Jennings and Finley sustained slight dings late in the first half, Nelson rose to the occasion, and Head Coach Mike McCarthy heaped praise on Nelson.
“He wins his one-on-ones. He is so consistent. He’s the same guy every day. Jordy had a nice day today,” McCarthy said.
That’s not how Rodgers described his performance.
“I’m pretty upset about that throw,” Rodgers said of a first-down pass with 5:55 left in the game and the Packers attempting to protect a 28-19 lead. Rodgers’ throw was intercepted and led to a quick touchdown by the Bucs that left the Packers clinging to a 28-26 lead.
“I didn’t throw the ball very well. It wasn’t coming off the way it should’ve been. I missed Greg … I missed Jordy. It’s nice we came up with a big drive in the end and won the game,” Rodgers added.
It is that “big drive in the end” that saved a day that otherwise left a sour taste in Rodgers’ mouth. The NFL’s top-rated quarterback, the reigning Super Bowl MVP and the leading candidate to win MVP honors for this season, stood stone-faced in front of the media following this win.
“Personally, I didn’t play a good game. We got a little stagnant in the third quarter. Practice was fine. I just didn’t throw the ball very well,” Rodgers said.
He did, however, throw the ball well at crunch time, which is the point in any game or in any season that separates the good quarterbacks from the stat boys. Rodgers is both.
On his worst day of the year, he threw for 299 yards, three more touchdowns and a 112.3 passer rating. Those numbers would be reason to celebrate for nearly every other quarterback in the game, but Rodgers refused to lean on those numbers when they were recited to him by an eager media.
What he leaned on was that crunch-time touchdown. Clearly, it had meaning to him. Clearly, he had challenged himself to clinch victory in a game for which he was feeling a large dose of guilt.
“Knowing a touchdown could put them away. It was nice to get that touchdown. Gotta go to him at crunch time, especially with Greg off the field,” Rodgers said, referring to Nelson.
So, as the Packers head into a short week of work for a game in Detroit on Thursday that will define their season, at least to this point in the season, all would seem to be in order. Rodgers rebounded at crunch time to get it done, and McCarthy is armed with plenty of ammunition to challenge his team to play better in Detroit than it did in Green Bay on Sunday.
“We’ve been tested in different ways. It’s something different every week. We’re still getting W’s,” Nelson said.
The tests are expected to increase in degree of difficulty now. Additional coverage - Packers vs. Bucs