Big plays come at home for Jordy Nelson

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- They're the plays you've become accustomed to seeing from Jordy Nelson this season. The 80-yarder for a touchdown against the New York Jets. The 73-yarder for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears. The 66-yarder for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings. The 64-yarder, even though he came up short of the end zone, against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Except you have only seen them in one place: Lambeau Field.

It may not completely explain the difference between the Green Bay Packers at home, where they are undefeated in seven games this season, and on the road, where they need a win Sunday at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just to finish 4-4. But an inability to connect on – or even attempt – many big plays with their top receiver on the road has to be considered at least a contributing factor in the Packers' differing results by locale.

Nelson, however, had no explanation for the Packers' struggles on the road this season.

"I think if we knew the simple answer, we wouldn't have any issues," Nelson said earlier this week after the Packers lost at the Buffalo Bills last Sunday.

"But I think it's tough to go on the road and win in this league. Across the league you've seen it. There's not much difference between the top and middle of this league. Teams play better at home. We've just got to, I don't know what it is, but just amp it up I guess a little bit more, or whatever it is. We've just got to make sure we execute at a higher level."

Nelson ranks eighth in the NFL in receptions (83), fifth in receiving yards (1,320) and tied for second in touchdown catches. When he signed his four-year, $39 million contract extension in July, it looked like it could be a bargain. And it has been. He looks like a lock to make his first Pro Bowl, which will be announced next week.

He leads the league in catches of 60 yards or more with five (no one else has more than three), and he leads the league with touchdown catches of 50-plus yards with five (no one else has more than three).

And, of course, all have come at Lambeau Field.

"Anything on offense is easier at home," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "You know, the crowd is not loud, you're not really dealing with cadence and crowd noise issues and things like that."

But does that fully explain the difference in Nelson's numbers (see accompanying chart) at home and on the road this season?

Receivers coach Edgar Bennett says no.

"I don't think so," Bennett said. "You factor in what we're doing, who we are and what the opponent is giving us. All of that factors into it probably more than the location."

Still, it's at the very least unusual that Nelson and quarterback Aaron Rodgers have not been able to hook up on deep balls away from home.

Nelson has more receptions on the road this season, but he has no plays over 23 yards away from home, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Nelson's 11 longest receptions this season all have come at home.

Fellow Packers receiver Randall Cobb, who has a 70-yard touchdown catch on the road this season at New Orleans, doesn't believe it's anything other than coincidence that none of Nelson's biggest plays have happened on the road.

"I don't think there’s any certain reason," Cobb said.