Green Bay Packer veteran kicker Mason Crosby had a genuinely horrible year in 2012. Notwithstanding his 80% career accuracy, Crosby missed more that one-third of the field goals he attempted. Even for a popular veteran player who does much for the community, that normally would be the end of the line; younger, stronger legs with much lower salaries were readily available. Most teams would have made the switch.
But, Packer management was unusually reticent to pull the plug. They viewed 2012 as an aberration in an otherwise sterling career. Crosby was resigned for 2013, and it payed off. He returned to form and has been golden when it counts ever since.
Tonight, that confidence paid off, big time! Crosby hit a 56-yarder to give the Pack a short-lived lead; then, he pushed two game winners, the second one, the only one that counted, barely inside the left upright to clinch the win and send the Pack into the NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons. For Crosby, it was an NFL record 23rd consecutive made field goal in playoff competition!
Crosby’s heroics were set up by superstar QB Aaron Rodgers (“AR”) and wide receiver Jared Cook. Following the Boyz game-tying FG by Dan Bailey, the Pack took over on their own 25-yard line with 35 seconds left. On a first down play from the Pack 42-yard line, AR was brutally sacked by the Boyz for a ten-yard loss. Most NFL QB’s would have coughed up the ball, setting up the Boyz for a 39-yard chip shot game winner. But, AR not only held onto the ball, but also had the presence of mind to call the Pack’s final timeout.
Then, on third and 20 from the 32, Rodgers drilled a bullet to Cook, who made a spectacular catch with two feet just barely in bounds at the Dallas 32 for a 36-yard gain. Although the pass originally was signaled incomplete, the call was reversed. Crosby then kicked the 51-yard game winner. But, Cowboy coach Jason Garrett absurdly was allowed to call a last second timeout. Fortunately, Crosby kicked it through again, although not by much. The Pack celebrated and are moving on to Atlanta for the NFL Championship game, one step from the Super Bowl.
The amazing AR thus led his team to a eighth consecutive victory following a 4-6 start. While he threw his first interception in 319 attempts, he finished 28 for 43 with 2 TDs and one INT, and the game-winning drive. On the negative side, the Pack blew a seemingly insurmountable 18 point lead, and AR’s single interception cost the Pack an almost sure touchdown that would have ended the game much earlier.
My brother, Jim, suggested that this was “the greatest Packer victory ever.” I countered with “what about the Ice Bowl in 1967” where the Packers bested the Cowboys on a famous last-second TD “sneak” by QB Bart Starr behind guard Jerry Kramer. Jim’s response: “As good as Starr was, I don’t think he could have pulled off some of the AR plays.” OK, I agree. But, it only makes a difference if they win the Super Bowl!
Check out the game-winner, set to music from “Titanic,” below.
RULES CHANGE NOTE: The ability of coaches to call last second timeouts from the sidelines when the ball is ready to be snapped, thus causing the kicker to kick twice, is a travesty that is both unsportsmanlike and dilutes the integrity of the game. It must be eliminated! The defensive team should not be allowed to call a timeout after the ball has been whistled “ready for play.”
But, hey, I’m only a retired judge. What do I know?