CHICAGO - The wind chill was cold enough. With the Green Bay Packers sitting on their 26-yard line, facing third-and-11 against the Chicago Bears with about 30 seconds left Sunday, kicker Mason Crosby didn’t have much reason to be completely warmed up.
Before quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ final completion dropped into receiver Jordy Nelson’s arms, Crosby spent most of Sunday’s second half standing on the sideline. He was cold. Bundled up. Couldn’t feel his toes.
“My toes were cold,” Crosby said. “Couldn’t feel those for most of the game.”
Everyone on the Packers' sideline celebrated Nelson’s 60-yard catch. For Crosby, the sudden change wasn’t ideal. Like any kicker, Crosby mentally prepared himself for what could be a game-winning field goal.
Even that veered off script.
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A 32-yard chip shot? The Packers were just trying to sniff Crosby’s range, which only extended to about 50 yards. Crosby expected a long, desperate field goal, until he saw Nelson streaking open behind the Bears secondary.
“I’m watching the ball,” Crosby said, “and then I’m like, ‘Oh, man, we’re going to be in field-goal range if he catches this.’ So I ran back and got one more kick, and the rest is history.”
Almost nothing went as expected in a wild, final-minute rally at Soldier Field. Nobody had to adjust more than Crosby, who ultimately appreciated a closer shot at sending the Packers home with a win.
About the only assist Crosby got was from Bears coach John Fox. His timeout with three seconds left to freeze Crosby wiped out what would have been a game-winning field goal, but it helped Crosby more than it hurt.
Crosby welcomed more time to warm up.
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“With how quick that was with the long throw and everything,” Crosby said, "I didn’t actually get a ton of kicks into the net. And then obviously not having kicked down on that end in the fourth quarter, I thought it was actually helpful to be able to get a rep there and just see how the ball was flying.
“Just trusted it. Our operation was great, protection. Everything was solid. Couldn’t have asked for a better ending.”
On Crosby’s first kick, the one nullified by Fox’s timeout, a stiff wind cut right to left. Crosby said the wind died down on his second kick, but the football still split the uprights.
Crosby wasn’t worried about the distance, despite a 34-yard field goal that knuckled through before halftime. That kick went to the same direction, but Crosby said the cold had no effect.
“I think I hit ground a little bit,” Crosby said. “It’s winter football. I just think I kinda sinked in a little bit, and hit a little bit of turf. Got away with one, but it got through. I was fortunate for that.”
The Packers might not have needed a last-play field goal had coach Mike McCarthy not eschewed a 40-yard attempt in the first quarter. McCarthy said the Packers were “on the cusp” of field-goal range, though Crosby said he felt comfortable from that distance.
Crosby added he thought McCarthy simply wanted to take a two-touchdown lead early, a comfortable lead that could have allowed the Packers to rest Rodgers in the second half.
The decision didn’t backfire because Rodgers hit Nelson with the game on the line, and then Crosby split the uprights.
“Mason, the best kicker in the league,” Rodgers said. “With the clutch — two clutch (kicks). He made it twice. It was great.”