Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby (2) is congratulated by special teams assistant coach Chad Morton, right, after Crosby made a 47-yard field goal during the third quarter of Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media
Mason Crosby rallied from another shaky start to make key 47- and 31-yard kicks in the second half of the Green Bay Packers’ 23-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
The slumping Crosby had made only seven of his last 15 attempts going into the game. His first attempt Sunday, a 30-yarder in the first quarter, was good but grazed the left upright. His second attempt was a miss wide right on a 53-yarder that drew some boos from the Lambeau Field crowd.
But the 47-yarder came at the same north end zone where Crosby had missed from 53 yards, and the 31-yard make with 4 minutes left put the Packers ahead 23-14 and essentially sealed the game.
“When you step up and drill a 47-yarder going in the same direction where you just missed,” said punter Tim Masthay, Crosby’s holder on kicks, “and then you hit a crucial kick at the end to make it a two-score game with a couple minutes left, I can’t help but think those were big confidence-boost kicks. They were big kicks.”
Crosby said he played for too much wind on his missed 53-yarder. Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh missed a 42-yarder at the north end, also wide right, with 1:56 to play.
“I made the kicks down the stretch that I needed to,” Crosby said. “Felt good about how I was striking the ball. Misjudged one of them, but the rest felt really good. This team has a reputation of blocking some field goals. They were getting a lot of pressure up the middle, and we did a great job of protecting and I hit the ball well.”
The setup for Crosby’s 47-yard kick was unusual, because coach Mike McCarthy initially kept his offense on the field to go for the first down on fourth-and-7 from the Vikings’ 29 about halfway through the third quarter and the Packers down 14-10. But the Vikings called time out, so McCarthy changed up and had Crosby attempt the 47-yarder, which he made and cut the lead to 14-13.
“We refer to it as a tempo call,” McCarthy said. “We were in four wides there, and I was in a four-down-territory mind-set. That’s something that I decide on third down in that particular range of the field, based on the information of where the field-goal range is. We went with a tempo play, liked the play. But once they called the timeout, that’s when I decided to go with the field goal, which was really trusting the chart and trusting Mason.”
Crosby said: “Always ready in that situation. Coach might have seen something that he was going for it. Obvious with the formation that we put out there, Minnesota needed to call a timeout. They didn’t like what they saw matchup-wise, and then we kicked the field goal. I felt good with it.”
Williams tagged for Gerhart hit
Cornerback Tramon Williams is hoping the replay of his unnecessary roughness penalty will vindicate him with the NFL.
Williams was penalized 15 yards on the hit, which came as the Vikings’ Toby Gerhart jumped to catch an overthrown pass along the sideline late in the third quarter.
Williams sent Gerhart sprawling, but the replay appeared to show that Williams led with his shoulder and forearm, not his helmet, and that he appeared to hit Gerhart in the shoulder or just below. Mike Pereira, the former NFL official who works as an officiating analyst for the Fox network, said the call was correct because it was helmet-to-helmet contact. But that wasn’t obvious on several views of the replay.
The NFL will be the final arbiter. If after reviewing the replays it fines Williams, it will have agreed with the call, and if doesn’t fine him, then not.
“I looked up and saw the replay, thought it was a clean shot,” Williams said. “So does everybody else I talked to. I don’t really comment on it too much, the league is going to do what it wants to do, I’ll just sit back and watch.”
Williams said he didn’t get an opportunity to ask the official what he saw on the play. In the name of player safety, the officials have been calling penalties on high hits more than ever.
“It’s more precaution going on in that area,” Williams said. “Unfortunately, some teams have to pay for it. There have been a lot of clean hits this year that have been penalized, and even guys have been fined for it. There have been some that guys haven’t been fined for either. Hopefully they’ll do the right thing.”
On the same day receiver Greg Jennings played for the first time since Week 4, the Packers lost another receiver, Jordy Nelson, to a hamstring injury.
In his return from a torn abdominal muscle Sunday, Jennings caught four passes for 46 yards. He didn’t start but saw his playing time increase after Nelson dropped out in the first quarter.
“It felt good to be back out there on the field, to take some hits, run some routes, get winded a little bit, get dirty,” Jennings said. “It felt really good.”
This was Nelson’s second hamstring injury of the season. He missed the Oct. 28 game against Jacksonville after pulling his hamstring in practice in the week leading up to that game. He returned Nov. 4 against Arizona but sprained his ankle in the first quarter.
McCarthy said Nelson experienced a problem with his hamstring during pregame warmups and then took himself out after a 10-yard catch — his only reception of the game.
“We’re not sure what Jordy’s situation is going to be, but I would guess that Greg would step seamlessly back into that slot,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “If we’re talking about the slot (position), Randall (Cobb)’s going to stay in the slot, I would assume, and Greg will be outside for the most part. It’s nice having him back. He’s a big-time player. He can make big catches down the field. There were a couple of plays where we were on the same page, which is fun to get him back out there and still have the same feel that we had previous to the injury. He’s a big-time player. We’ve got to give him more opportunities.”
McCarthy uses gadget plays infrequently but tried one Sunday that ended in an interception. On the play, Cobb lined up in the backfield, took a toss to his right, then threw a lateral across the field to Rodgers. Rodgers then underthrew a bomb to Jennings, and safety Harrison Smith intercepted at the Vikings’ 6.
“I was just trying to punt it in there and get ’em back pretty good,” Rodgers joked. “I wanted to catch it first, that was important. As I was making the catch, I saw (defensive end Everson) Griffen coming my way. I think Josh (Sitton) made a nice block to give me some room. I just tried to put it up. I kind of ran out of arm a little bit there.”
♦ Both players the Packers activated from their practice squad on Saturday were among the 46 players who suited up Sunday: receiver Jeremy Ross and running back DuJuan Harris. Ross played on special teams; Harris didn’t get into the game.