Jordy Nelson caught the ball, spun and prepared to dart downfield.
Two steps later, Green Bay's Pro Bowl wide receiver was on the turf, his left knee injured and his season very much in doubt. Although Nelson was able to gingerly walk to the sideline early in the first quarter of Sunday's 24-19 exhibition loss to Pittsburgh, it might be the last sign of Nelson in his familiar No. 87 jersey this year.
While Packers Coach Mike McCarthy stressed the defending NFC North champions "will look for good news" when Nelson is reevaluated in Green Bay on Monday, quarterback Aaron Rodgers' expressed equal parts frustration and mystification.
"It's difficult to lose a guy like that in a meaningless game," Rodgers said.
The play that may change the course of Green Bay's season started innocently enough. The Packers were driving crisply down the field on their opening possession when Rodgers hit Nelson on a little hitch route. Nelson leapt to make the catch and planted his left leg while turning to face Pittsburgh cornerback Antwon Blake only to unexpectedly drop to his knees, a potentially devastating blow for the Packers and dynamic playmaker who set career highs in receptions (98) and yards receiving (1,519) in 2014.
"I'm not going to get into the 'What if' game," Rodgers said. "I don't know what his status will be. I'm just hoping for the best."
So are the Steelers after Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey exited in the first quarter because of a left ankle injury Coach Mike Tomlin said will likely require surgery. Pouncey, who missed all of 2013 after tearing multiple ligaments in his right knee in the opener against Tennessee, is out indefinitely.
"He got rolled up on but he walked it off," Steelers right tackler Marcus Gilbert said. "I was hoping that it wasn't nothing too bad. Once he got carted off, it struck me."
Long black hair swinging from his helmet, 303-pound defensive lineman Mike Purcell intercepted Dustin Vaughan's pass and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown to help the San Francisco 49ers beat the Dallas Cowboys, 23-6.
Tennessee's Marcus Mariota turned in a clean performance in his home debut, Titans cornerback Perrish Cox returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown and the Titans beat St. Louis, 27-14, on Sunday night to spoil Rams Coach Jeff Fisher's return to town.
Giants' Jackson out for the season
New York Giants starting safety Bennett Jackson suffered a major knee injury against the Jacksonville Jaguars and will be lost for the season, the latest injury that has ravaged the team's most inexperienced position.
Free-agent safety Justin Currie broke his right ankle and fibula earlier in the game Saturday night covering a kickoff, and Jackson went down in the waning minutes of the 22-12 victory, playing because the team didn't have enough safeties.
Coach Tom Coughlin said Jackson tore his anterior cruciate ligament tackling a tight end in front of the Jaguars' bench. The second-year player had converted from cornerback this season and started the first two games.