GENARO C. ARMAS, AP Sports Writer
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson have worked with each for so long that it often seems they can create plays just by making eye contact.
Nelson points to where he thinks he can make a catch. Rodgers buys precious seconds and delivers a pinpoint pass. Another big play for the Green Bay Packers.
The prolific duo is on a roll headed into the Packers’ winner-take-all showdown on Sunday against the Lions in Detroit for the NFC North title.
“You can see the trust,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “He releases the ball much earlier to Jordy and that in itself speaks volumes of their relationship as far as the number of reps, the trust, the timing and so forth. They’re a unique combination.”
Nelson came in to the league as a second-round draft choice out of Kansas State in 2008, which was Rodgers’ first year taking over as the starting quarterback.
Since then, they have combined to become the most productive quarterback-receiver touchdown combination in Packers history, breaking the mark of 57 held by Brett Favre and Antonio Freeman. Two more touchdown passes last week against Minnesota gave the Rodgers-to-Nelson combination 59.
Nelson has five scoring catches alone over the last four weeks, a period during which Rodgers has been dealing with leg muscle injuries.
And yet Rodgers is in the midst of what has been a href=’https://www.apnews.com/c0258d7734964e8c8824478f6c80963d/QB-Aaron-Rodgers-leads-Packers’-late-season-charge’his most impressive stretch of the season/a for the Packers (9-6), having not thrown an interception over his last six games. Green Bay has won five straight since a four-game skid.
“I mean, he does everything that you could possibly want a quarterback to do,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said about Rodgers. “There’s not anything he’s not doing well. And I think he’s always played well.”
Packers offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett has taken to giving Rodgers the nickname “Yellow Jacket,” after the color of the sport coat that retired players wear when inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I’m just looking for new ways to compliment him,” McCarthy said. “I think if you just have a chance to be around him every day, he competes with everything. It can be overwhelming sometimes as far as whether it’s pre-practice drill or finishing his test before the other guys.”
With a league leading 14 touchdown catches, Nelson has bounced back quite nicely this season after missing 2015 with a torn ACL. He has 91 catches for 1,191 yards headed into the regular season finale.
McCarthy said he loves the “little things” that Nelson does, like how the receiver’s work ethic in practice rubs off on his teammates.
“He’s very into the drill work, clearly understands the importance of not only practicing but how important it is for him to practice with the other receivers and get the time clock, the spacing, and he’s a great example for young players,” McCarthy said.
Rodgers attributes his success with Nelson to the amount of the time they’ve spent together. That’s dozens of practices, let alone games. He is running out of words to describe, Nelson, too.
“You run out of ways to compliment him because he’s such a good teammate, he does so many things exceptional with his, obviously, route running, his catching the ball his second and third reactions. Just his feel,” Rodgers said after the 38-25 win over the Vikings.
As for Rodgers’ success in the second half of the season, McCarthy acknowledged it — quickly.
“He’s done a great job, you know,” he said. “I’m not really here to talk about season review, we feel our season is just getting started.”
Notes: WR Randall Cobb, who missed the Vikings game with an ankle injury, was going to rehab on Wednesday while the team practiced.
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