Packers' specialists undeterred by elements

Michael Cohen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Green Bay Packers' Jay Elliott tackles Houston Texans' Akeem Hunt on a kickoff return in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

GREEN BAY — Snow already had poured onto Lambeau Field for three hours when kicker Nick Novak lined up for an extra point in the fourth quarter. His Houston Texans had just scored a touchdown that made it a one-score game, and there was an outside chance they could recover the onside kick for an opportunity to tie the game.

But Novak, a right-footed kicker, pushed his extra point wide to the right as fans of the Green Bay Packers cheered with glee. The team from Texas came north, and the elements finally had bested them.

“It’s classic Lambeau — snow, cold, a little bit of wind,” quarterback Brock Osweiler said. “It was expected. We expected it to be poor weather today. I view weather as one of those things that, it’s irrelevant. You can’t control it, so why would you worry about it? But certainly, footing was a little bit different.”

Neither team attempted a field goal during the 21-13 win for the Packers, who opened the scoring in the second quarter and never trailed. But there were five combined extra points, and Novak was the only kicker to miss. The Packers had gone three-for-three.

A clean performance like the Packers had Sunday bolstered the confidence of the three specialists — long snapper Brett Goode, punter/holder Jacob Schum and kicker Mason Crosby — who were playing their first snowy game as a unit. Their entire operation was smooth during a game that tested them for the wintry weeks to come.

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“It always is a confidence boost knowing that you can do it and you’ve been in certain situations,” said Goode, who has snapped for the Packers since 2008. “That’s always big. And it’s big for us three, our first one together, so that’s good. I thought we handled it well.”

The grounds crew at Lambeau Field kept the grass covered until approximately 45 minutes before kickoff, by which point the snow had already begun. It continued steadily for the duration of the game and picked up intensity as the afternoon progressed.

Their first test arrived with 4 minutes, 51 seconds remaining in the first quarter after the offense went three and out. Schum, who played college football for the University at Buffalo, took the field and launched a 47-yard punt.

When the weather is clear, Schum does not wear gloves and catches snaps with his bare hands. Sunday he wore a glove on his left hand to reduce the chance for a mistake. And he punted well: three of his five punts landed inside the 20-yard line.

“I usually wear like one glove on the left just for the extra security and grip,” Schum said. “Just adds that extra comfort for that grip to secure the ball. Other than that, it’s just long sleeves and that’s really it.”

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Up ahead, at the line of scrimmage, Goode said he kicked away large clumps of snow to create a level surface on punts and PATs.

“Biggest thing is just focus on technique,” Goode said. “Really you can’t have a brain fart, like I like to say. You’ve just got to focus in on it and put a good spiral on the ball. If you can put a good spin on it, it gives them a better option.”

Crosby trotted onto the field for his first kick after quarterback Aaron Rodgers found wide receiver Randall Cobb for a 9-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. He worked with Schum to clear an area of snow in which the ball would be placed and his plant foot would land.

Crosby entered Sunday having made his last 14 PATs at Lambeau Field in December or January games. His last miss was Dec. 8, 2014, against the Atlanta Falcons, when he made 4 of 5.

The streak was extended during Sunday’s squall. Crosby went 3-for-3.

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“Everything went great,” Schum said. “It was a little slippery, but we cleaned out the spot area so Mason could get a good plant and I can see the spot. Got awesome snaps from Brett, and Mason stayed nice and smooth, hit awesome balls. I think our operation was pretty great.

“We can handle any conditions, and that’s what we’re going to do the rest of the season.”

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