JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It didn’t take long for Jordy Nelson to make his presence felt again in the Packers’ offense.
The veteran receiver, playing in his first game in more than a year, caught the first of Aaron Rodgers’ two touchdown passes in Sunday’s 27-23 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It was Nelson’s first in-game action since the Pro Bowl receiver sustained a season-ending knee injury in Pittsburgh in August 2015.
Fittingly, the touchdown came on the tail end of a play Rodgers extended with his feet. Stepping into the pocket, the Packers’ quarterback whistled a pass past Jaguars cornerback Prince Amukamara and into Nelson’s hands.
After a quiet first quarter, Nelson caught three passes from Rodgers during the second-quarter scoring series with his final one giving Green Bay a 14-10 lead at the time.
“It was great to be back out there helping the team win a game,” said Nelson, who finished with six catches for 32 yards and a touchdown. “Getting back in the end zone is always fun, especially (to) get the first one out of the way and get the first win.”
Nelson said he didn’t even think of his surgically repaired knee when he was on the field Sunday. He was more concentrated on getting the Packers’ passing game going early.
The first 15 minutes were a challenge. The Packers’ offense stalled with three consecutive three-and-outs following Rodgers’ 6-yard touchdown run on the opening drive.
Then, the offense started to hit its stride on the nine-play, 75-yard series capped by Nelson’s touchdown, serving as a reminder of how dangerous the offense can be when he’s on the field.
Nelson didn’t make any grand proclamations for his first game back because even he didn’t know what to expect. He wasn’t sure how his body would respond or what his workload would be in his first game back.
The Packers threw him right back into the heart of the offense, including on their 16-play, 73-yard series that ate 9 minutes and 14 seconds off the clock over the third and fourth quarters.
Despite not playing in the preseason, Nelson was up to the task. He said his conditioning felt fine despite running play after play in the 90-degree Jacksonville heat.
“It was good. Obviously you’re talking nine-minute drives … you’ll be gassed no matter what,” Nelson said. “I think I handled it well. I got a little tired down in red zone but the benefit of that is you don’t have to go very far. So I was able to control myself.
“The main thing for me was how quickly I recovered. You’re going to get winded, you’re going to get heavy legs, but you can recover play to play, or if you get to take a play off, you can get ready to come back in for the next one. Everything went smooth.”
Nelson wasn’t the only key contributor for the Packers in the win over the Jaguars. Jared Cook and Davante Adams also made an impact prior to halftime.
After Nelson’s 6-yard touchdown, Jacksonville responded with a quick touchdown drive to pull back ahead, but left 1:09 on the clock for Rodgers and the Packers’ offense.
Their response was another 75-yard drive in five plays that began with Cook drawing a 30-yard defensive pass interference penalty.
With 20 seconds left in the half, Rodgers then threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Adams across the middle of the field despite a Jacksonville defender grabbing the quarterback’s jersey at the time he threw it.
On the other end, Adams fought off a defensive pass interference penalty by former Packers cornerback Davon House to propel the Packers ahead, 21-17 at halftime.
The throw showed Rodgers’ confidence in not only Adams, but also himself.
“Might have been more his confidence knowing he’s that good to get it over there getting hit and everything,” quipped Adams, who finished with three catches for 50 yards.
“I feel like I had a pretty good training camp, so building the trust with him and continuing to do that, that’s what takes those steps to get him to throw a ball downfield like that.”
Nelson saw Sunday’s win as a positive first step for the offense but said there were too many lulls for the offense throughout the game.
The biggest area he pinpointed for improvement came in the fourth quarter when the Packers failed to establish their four-minute offense, leaving the door open for the Jaguars to stage one last comeback.
The Packers’ defense pulled through late with a little extra motivation in seeing No. 87 back on the field.
“Jordy is one of the leaders on our team – not just offense – but our team as a whole,” safety Morgan Burnett said. “Just seeing him back out there, it gives you a little extra kick like, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ Just seeing him out there making plays, you’re happy for him.”