Nelson turning back clock to 2014

Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson (87) falls into the end zone for at touchdown in the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field Saturday, December 24, 2016.

GREEN BAY – All season, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson has put up impressive numbers.

Coming into this week, he ranked first in the NFL in receiving touchdowns, tied for seventh in receptions (82) and eighth in receiving yards (1,037).

But when it came to the eyeball test, Nelson never seemed like the same guy who a year before tearing his ACL had 98 receptions, 13 touchdowns and averaged 15.5 yards per catch.

Then Nelson had 61 minutes of the best football he has played in some time.

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It started with his clutch 60-yard reception in the freezing cold at Soldier Field last Sunday to set up a last-second, game-winning field goal in a must-win game against the Chicago Bears. It ended with his nine-catch, 154-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 38-25 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday at Lambeau Field.

Nelson has posted back-to-back 100-yard receiving games for the first time since November 2014, and his yardage total against the Vikings was the fourth-highest of his nine-year career.

To many, the 31-year-old receiver finally has regained his form 16 months after tearing his right ACL. To Nelson, nothing could be further from the truth.

“It’s not health-related,” Nelson said. “I felt good all year long. I think it’s just getting back in the flow of things and continuing to improve. I think I’ve said multiple times I’m a guy who needs practice, I need the offseason and I need training camp.

“Unfortunately, I haven’t had it the last two years. So it’s something that it’s been great to be out there every day at practice, continue to fine-tune my skills and try to get better and continue to improve and obviously get in a rhythm with Aaron (Rodgers).”

Nelson was shot out of a cannon in Week 16, catching a 15-yard pass on the Packers’ first possession and a 21-yard touchdown pass on the second. On the third possession, he caught a 48-yard pass and on the fifth he caught a 2-yard touchdown pass.

By the time the first half was over he had seven catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns. The Vikings put their best corner, Xavier Rhodes, on him in the second quarter, but it was too late.

He and Rodgers already had commenced their butt-kicking.

“It’s special,” coach Mike McCarthy said of the Rodgers-Nelson connection. “You can see the trust. You can see, particularly when Aaron releases the ball, especially when you’re watching film, he releases the ball much earlier to Jordy.

“That in itself speaks volumes of their relationship, as far as the number of reps, the trust, the timing. They are a unique combination.”

From the perspective of touchdown passes, they are now the most prolific in franchise history.

When Rodgers got loose and hit Nelson for the 21-yarder in the first quarter, he broke the club record of 57 touchdowns from Brett Favre to Antonio Freeman. Nelson’s two touchdown catches gave him 14 for the season, making him the first player in club history to catch 13 or more touchdowns in three different seasons (2011, ’14 and ’16).

His nine catches raised his career total to 491, moving him past Don Hutson (488) into fourth place in franchise history.

“Any time you can stand in front of your team and acknowledge a player or two players with the worlds of best in the history of the Green Bay Packers, that’s a huge statement,” McCarthy said. “And no disrespect to the other NFL franchises, we all recognize not only the great teams but the great players that have come through these doors.”

Nelson was able to win some individual match-ups but in a sign of how the Packers' offense is progressing, he was able to get free when the Vikings played zone. When Nelson received double coverage, the other receivers benefited and that’s part of what the Packers want to count on the rest of the season.

It continues next Sunday with a winner-take-all meeting with Detroit.

“We’re playing well,” Nelson said. “We’ve seen it before with hot teams, not just us but hot teams down the stretch. So nothing’s guaranteed. We’ve still got another week. But we’ve put ourselves in a situation. So we’ll enjoy this weekend and get back to work.”

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