ARLINGTON, Texas – Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was the most valuable player of Super Bowl XLV, but it just as easily could have been Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson.
In the biggest game of the third-year pro’s career, he had his best performance. He had nine catches for 140 yards, both career highs, including a 29-yard touchdown catch that put the Packers on the board first on their way to a 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium.
Just as important was that Nelson bounced back from what could have been a costly drop in the fourth quarter. One play after he failed to haul in a catch on second-and-10 from the Steelers’ 40, he caught an “in” route and scampered 38 yards to the Steelers’ 2-yard line to set up Rodgers’ third touchdown pass of the game and give the Packers a much-needed 28-17 cushion with 11:57 to play.
“It’s all about opportunities,” Nelson said. “That’s what we’ve been saying about our whole receiving corps. You never know who’s going to make a big play or have a big game.”
With Donald Driver going out late in the first half with an ankle injury and the Steelers doing everything in their defensive power to shut down Greg Jennings (four catches, 64 yards, two touchdowns), the Packers needed Nelson.
It wasn’t the first time he has delivered in this postseason. After getting shut out in the wild-card win at Philadelphia, Nelson had big days against Atlanta (eight catches for 79 yards and a touchdown) in the divisional playoff game and Chicago (four catches for 67 yards) in the NFC championship game. That followed a four-catch, 124-yard, one-touchdown game in the second-to-last game of the regular season against the New York Giants.
“The guy’s just gotten better and better and better the whole year, especially down the stretch,” receivers coach Jimmy Robinson said. “When you look back and you start with the Giants game, the big game he had, and just all the way through, he’s a guy you can count on.”
Nelson's 140 receiving yards set a team Super Bowl record. The old mark was 138 yards by Max McGee in Super Bowl I.
No one was happier for Nelson than Driver, who has played 12 years in order to get to his first Super Bowl. He badly wanted to return to the game in the second half but couldn’t because of a badly sprained left ankle.
Driver said he broke down and started crying in the training room when the doctors told him at halftime that he couldn’t return.
“It was hard; the emotion came down,” Driver said. “I told Doc I wanted to finish this, but he told me I’m not going to let you go out and play like that, you’ll hurt yourself more than you’ll help yourself.”
Driver said he felt better after seeing his fellow receivers in the locker room at halftime.
“They gave me a big hug and told me they’re going to win it for me,” said Driver, who had two catches for 28 yards before his injury. “I relaxed after that.”
Zombo steps in
With Erik Walden not able to play because of the high ankle sprain he sustained in the NFC championship game, Frank Zombo was back in the starting lineup at right outside linebacker.
Zombo had started eight games in the regular season, including six straight before sustaining a knee injury that sidelined him with three games to play in the regular season.
Walden played well enough in place that was job was his regardless of when Zombo returned in the playoffs, but Zombo was out through the NFC championship game. Walden’s injury in that game, though, opened the door for Zombo to start against the Steelers, and Zombo responded by making five tackles, including a sack of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, two tackles for a loss and another quarterback hit.
“I thought I’d be rusty our out of shape,” Zombo said. “But that wasn’t the case whatsoever. I felt good, moved around well, had some good practices.”
Zombo’s sack came on a third down in the third quarter. He dropped Roethlisberger for a two-yard loss, and on fourth down kicker Shaun Suisham missed a 52-yard field goal attempt wide to the left.
“Dream come true,” Zombo said of the sack. “I didn’t think I’d be here, in the Super Bowl, starting in the Super Bowl, making plays in the Super Bowl. I feel like I should be more excited, it’s like I’m in a trance or something. This really hasn’t set in.”
Walden didn’t practice at all the week after the NFC championship game, and then after returning to practice Wednesday last week was unable to go Thursday or Friday because of the injury. He worked out for the medical and training staffs before the game, but he was gimpy enough that coach Mike McCarthy made him one of the eight game-day inactives.
“It hurt, but I felt like I could go out there and play,” Walden said. “But I’m glad we won the game. I’m speechless right now.”
Capers' first title
Dom Capers, the Packers defensive coordinator, has been coaching in the NFL for 25 years, and this was his first appearance in the Super Bowl. He now has his first championship.
“When you’ve been doing it for 25 years and this is your first one, it’s very satisfying,’ he said. “You think about all the hard work and effort, and coming to Green Bay two years ago and having the opportunity to take that Lombardi trophy back, it means a great deal.”
Jenkins' last stand?
Defensive end Cullen Jenkins was hoping to get a contract extension during the season, but his talks with the Packers went nowhere, so there’s a chance this was his last game with the team.
Jenkins, a seven-year pro, will be an unrestricted free agent whenever the players’ union and owners reach agreement on a collective bargaining agreement. There’s a chance he’ll return to the Packers, but there’s also a chance he’ll sign with another team.
“Of all the things I’ve had going, issues, contract stuff, it’s great,” he said of winning the Super Bowl “I don’t know if this is my last game as a Packer, but if it was, it’s a great way to go out. I love this organization, I love this city, and I’m just glad we were able to bring the trophy back.”
A ring of truth?
Packers coach Mike McCarthy was supremely confident in his final press conference of the week on Friday. Not that he isn’t usually sure of his team, but it was so uncharacteristic when he declared, “Sunday will be our night.”
Apparently, that wasn’t the end of is assuredness.
McCarthy had the Packers fitted for championship rings at the team meeting Saturday night in anticipation of some new jewelry.
“It’s a great feeling when you know you’ve won before you even play the game,” running back Brandon Jackson said.
McCarthy informed general manager Ted Thompson of his plans a few days ago.
“I was OK with it,” Thompson said. “If we hadn’t won it, they would have still gotten an NFC Championship ring, so they still needed the ring size.
A double Wynn
On Sunday, Packers defensive end Jarius Wynn became a Super Bowl champion and a father.
His wife went into labor while they were eating dinner on Saturday night. She was rushed to a nearby Dallas-area hospital. Wynn stayed with her all night instead of going back to the hotel and at 9:08 on Sunday morning, his son, Jarius Jr., was born.
Wynn was activated and played on special teams.
“I got a little rest, but I was so anxious and worried about her,” Wynn said.
This means the world to Jackson
Running back Brandon Jackson almost spoke faster than the human brain could compute in the locker room after being crowned a world champion. He gave out hugs and shouted to no one in particular.
Equipment manager Red Batty came over to help Jackson out of his shoulder pads and started to collect his equipment as Jackson grabbed for his jersey. Batty usually collects all the jerseys to be washed, but Jackson didn’t want to let go. He begged to keep the jersey.
“He can take my pants, but he can’t have the jersey,” Jackson pleaded.
Batty insisted that he would take care of it, but Jackson still had some parting words.
“Do not wash the jersey,” Jackson said. “Please. Please.”
Jackson was as ecstatic as anyone in the locker room. He could barely string his thoughts together.
“It’s amazing,” Jackson said. “A guy coming all the way from Horn Lake, Mississippi. Winning a Super Bowl, world champs.
“Nothing else can top it. It’s the world. It’s the world, baby. Not the city. The world.”
A Rockin' party
After a lengthy celebration on the field and in the locker room at Cowboys Stadium, the Packers returned to their hotel, the Omni Mandalay at Las Colinas, for a party.
And they had big-time entertainment.
The Packers secured Kid Rock to put on a private concert at their victory party.
Odds and ends
Woodson said he doesn’t believe surgery will be necessary to repair his broken collarbone. … Inactive for the Packers were Graham Harrell (third quarterback), running back Dimitri Nance, cornerback Brandon Underwood, cornerback Josh Gordy, fullback Quinn Johnson, center Evan Dietrich-Smith, guard Nick McDonald and linebacker Erik Walden.