GREEN BAY—Jordy Nelson has some news for Jarrett Boykin.
“He screwed up,” Nelson said, following Boykin’s eight-catch, 103-yard, one-touchdown effort on Sunday at Lambeau Field. “He set the bar high.”
That Boykin did, becoming the offensive star of the Packers’ 31-13 victory over the Browns. Playing without Randall Cobb and James Jones, the Packers passing game kept humming along as Boykin showed none of the rust or awkwardness that characterized his rough start last week in Baltimore.
Boykin confessed he was “highly disappointed” in his play a week ago, but he was a more reliable, steady presence on offense on Sunday. He made his first NFL start and the second-year pro surpassed his career totals for receptions and yards coming in.
“I felt like we were on a better rhythm today,” Boykin said of his connection with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “Just a little bit of dialing in, and him giving me what he wants me to do, and me focusing in on what I need to do.
“Once you get in that groove, you just feel invincible. Whenever I saw the ball coming my way, I just tried to do whatever I can to take advantage of the situation.”
Added Nelson: “Him and Aaron, their chemistry will continue to grow, and we’ll expect more from him now.”
The Packers got the most from Boykin after losing yet another pass catcher to injury, when tight end Jermichael Finley was taken off the field on a stretcher with a neck injury early in the fourth quarter.
Two snaps after the long injury delay, Boykin hauled in a deep ball down the sideline for 39 yards and was brought down at the 1. Nelson scored on a short catch on the next play.
Then on Green Bay’s ensuing possession, Boykin was open again down the near sideline and fought to get in the end zone, reaching the ball out while getting tackled and putting it on the goal line for his first pro TD.
“I was heated I couldn’t get in there on the first one,” he said. “The second time around, I had to make sure I wasn’t denied again.”
Like many in his situation, Boykin traveled a long road to get this opportunity. Cut by Jacksonville last year, he got a contract from the Packers as a tryout player during rookie orientation, made the 53-man roster out of training camp and then made a key fourth-down catch in Week 17 at Minnesota, only to be tackled awkwardly. An injured ankle kept him out of the postseason.
He entered 2013 as Green Bay’s No. 4 receiver but had played sparingly until last week, when a 43-yard catch-and-run helped erase the early struggles and get his mind right for a big week of preparation.
“He went through every step possible to make a team,” Nelson said. “He works hard every day. He keeps his head down. He’s a good kid, doesn’t say much.
“We’re excited for him. I guarantee you Randall and James watching upstairs, they’re just as excited. We’ll have a good time watching in the film room tomorrow.”
They obviously won’t enjoy seeing what happened to Finley, who took a blow to the head from Cleveland safety Tashaun Gipson at the end of a 10-yard reception.
Finley was immobilized and taken off the field on a stretcher. A month ago in Cincinnati, Finley suffered a concussion, but this was reported in the press box as a neck injury.
Nelson said this was the first time in his career it really “got” him, seeing a teammate down like that.
“I didn’t like what I saw,” Nelson said. “Hopefully he’ll be all right. It’s not fun to just see someone lying there.
“It makes you sick. You start thinking a little bit.”
Nelson and several teammates reiterated that their thoughts and prayers are with Finley. Several called the moment and scene “scary,” and the 77,804 in attendance at Lambeau were awfully quiet.
“It was a serious hit,” cornerback Sam Shields said. “All we can do is just pray for him.” Complete game coverage