Wide receiver Jordy Nelson appeared to be having a tough time enjoying the 28-26 Packers victory following the Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field.
Nelson fumbled twice on kick returns, which both times put the Packers in a position to possibly lose to the now 0-4 Lions. The third-year pro was at a loss for words to describe what happened.
"They got them out," said Nelson. "We'll look at it on film, I don't know, we'll see. They hit the ball. It's hard to say. It's not like I'm out there dropping it, but they got it out. I've got to do a better job holding onto the ball. It's not acceptable, and I'll get plenty of work on it this week."
The first fumble occurred at the end of the first half immediately following a touchdown pass from Lions quarterback Shaun Hill to wide receiver Calvin Johnson to pull within 7 points of the Packers, down 21-14.
Nelson lost the ensuing kickoff setting up a Jason Hanson 55-yard field goal attempt with 2 seconds remaining. Hanson came up short on a kick that Jarrett Bush may have gotten a slight deflection off his hand driving off the edge.
Seeing as the Packers won by two points in the final score, the three potential points in the missed field goal ended up proving critical to the outcome of the game.
The second fumble by Nelson occurred in the fourth quarter following a Hanson 49-yard field goal to pull within 5 point of the Packers, 23-28, and within a touchdown of taking the lead.
Receiving the subsequent kickoff at the 5-yard line, Nelson made it out to the 22 before coughing up the ball. The Lions' Stefan Logan picked the ball up at the 22 and got as far as the 18 before being tackled by Dimitri Nance.
Thankfully for Nelson, the Packers defense was able to limit the damage to one final Hanson field goal, the final scoring of the game, to make it 28-26.
"It's extremely frustrating, not only that you fumbled but that you put your team in that situation," said Nelson. "I put our team in a situation to lose this game, and that's not anything you want to do."
Including Sunday's performance, Nelson now has 6 fumbles on special teams (losing 3) in the past two seasons including playoffs.
Among Nelson's highest profile fumbles was one in the playoff game against at Arizona last season. The last fumble he lost prior to Sunday was also against the Detroit Lions last year in the Thanksgiving Day game. He had two more fumbles on punt returns in 2009.
That makes for 6 fumbles in 71 combined career kick and punt returns by Nelson, which amounts to nearly one in every 12 returns.
For the team as a whole, what it amounts to is another poor special teams performance for the Packers, one that piggybacks on top of another poor showing last week against the Chicago Bears.
"Didn’t like the two turnovers, I can tell you that," said McCarthy of the overall special teams effort following yesterday's game. "I thought the coverage units were OK. The four turnovers are inexcusable. Two on offense, two on special teams. It’s something we take a lot of pride in, something we spend a lot of time on, and I thought that was a big negative in our performance today."
McCarthy and special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum stuck with Nelson on kick returns even following his two fumbles, but it remains to be seen whether they can afford to trot Nelson out on the field in coming weeks.
The fumble problems against the Lions come as a disappointment considering Nelson's strong start to the season, ranking eighth in the NFL coming into Week 4 with a 26.2-yard average on kick returns.
The Packers' other options aren't very appealing. They could turn to Brandon Jackson, who couldn't win the return job during training camp, and is now the team's starting running back following the season-ending injury to Ryan Grant. They also could consider punt returner Tramon Williams, but likely don't want to expose him to injury more than they already are considering Williams' strong play as a starting cornerback, at least while Al Harris remains out.
Former return specialist Will Blackmon is eligible to be re-signed by the Packers after being waived following being placed on injured reserve. However, Blackmon can't sign until after Week 6, the same point that the three players on the Packers' Physically Unable to Perform list are also eligible to return to action.
The Packers would have to clear room on their 53-man roster for any and all of them, should they choose to active them.
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