Packers' Mason Crosby relishes return to site of 'awesome' last-second upset of Cowboys
GREEN BAY – As Mason Crosby meandered around the turf at AT&T Stadium with about 12 seconds left in the 2016 NFC divisional-round playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys, he couldn’t put his foot on a ball. During what he felt was the longest review of a play in his career – Jared Cook’s improbable 36-yard sideline grab of an Aaron Rodgers throw on third-and-20 – the officials took up the area by his kicking net.
So, Crosby swung his leg on air, waiting.
Quite possibly – probably, actually – punter Jake Schum was replaying a scene from “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” in his head to keep his mind off of, well, dropping Brett Goode’s snap. Which is amusing on its own since the plot revolves around a missed field goal due to an improper hold.
But when it came down to it – whether it be the 56-yard field goal to go up 31-28 with 1 minute, 33 seconds left or the two, 51-yard field goals Crosby made in the final seconds (Dallas called timeout before the first one), the three-man operation of Crosby, Schum and Goode executed perfectly in a high-pressure situation to create one of the most lasting memories in the modern Packers era.
In the hallway near the alumni suite at Lambeau Field, there is a collage on the wall commemorating the final kick, which went off in 1.25 seconds, earned the trio a game ball and sent them to the NFC championship game in Atlanta.
“To do it twice and execute on such a high level was awesome,” Crosby said this week in advance of the Packers’ return to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. “They rushed hard. When I look back, everyone says hey, you kind of hit it down the upright and it somehow came back – and honestly as I look at the rush and all the stuff, if I had hit it straight down the middle – the guy was pretty close off the edge. It kind of ended up working out just how the ball flew. I’m thankful for just the line that it took and I had my little fade there at the end.”
While the Packers would fall short of the Super Bowl the following week in Atlanta, the game in Dallas continued an eight-game winning streak that began in late November with Rodgers’ proclamation at 4-6 that the club could “run the table” to reach the playoffs.
They did, which set the stage in Dallas on Jan. 15, 2017. The Packers had a 28-13 lead at the start of the fourth quarter but Dak Prescott led the Cowboys back to tie the game with 4:08 to go.
Prior to the game, Crosby had told Packers head coach Mike McCarthy his number was 56 yards – and lo and behold a Packers drive stalled out at the Cowboys’ 38.
“Could’ve obviously stretched it out if need be but we got right on that line and I’m like, all right, well I told him, I gotta go in the game and execute,” Crosby recalled.
He drilled it – but Dallas would respond with Dan Bailey’s 52-yarder to tie with 40 seconds to go.
“Just looking at the time we know we have Aaron Rodgers – we have a chance,” Schum said. “We’re gonna have a chance to win this again.”
Rodgers then took over at his own 25 with 35 seconds and two timeouts.
“You want the game to come down to you and have that opportunity,” Goode said. “Yes, everybody would say you’d like go out and blow everybody out but that obviously doesn’t happen a whole lot in the NFL, especially in the playoffs. And when you get those opportunities you want to make the most of it. That’s stuff that you train for, for years. Not only that current year but every year that you’ve been playing football. You train for those moments and you try and go out and treat it like every other kick because at the end of the day it is.”
The routine for the trio was this: On first and second down, Crosby would retreat to the kicking net. Goode would throw snaps to Schum.
On third down they would watch.
Which means they all were just as captivated by Rodgers’ throw to Cook as the nation was.
“It was just kind of like how did that actually just happen?” Schum said.
But one thing no one did was talk to Crosby.
Schum dubbed him “Machine Mason” in those moments, when the kicker locked into whatever, wherever he needed to be mentally. But because of the throw and ensuing review – and the location of the review on the field – Crosby’s routine was broken. He said he had to reset mentally about every 20 seconds.
“I definitely had a lot more time on the field and kind of in it,” Crosby said. “Now, after the fact, it’s awesome because I could remember all those feelings of it and kind of being out there a little bit more in that moment and being able to execute in that situation. And just that practice on a daily basis of just locking in so every time in practice when it’s time to go to work and we’re working we’re locked in.”
The Packers knew Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett was going to try to ice Crosby so they planned on performing the operation all the way through regardless – which is what they did when time was called with three seconds left. So they reset again.
Goode said he delivered a better ball on the game winner and Schum – playing in the biggest game of his career at that point – had little to worry about after relaxing himself with thoughts of Jim Carrey and just put the ball down, laces out.
“That’s a thing that I think snappers don’t get enough credit for – to be able to put the laces (out) and save time,” Schum said. “That was just like a perfect example of that hard work all year long. It was a perfect operation time. The snap was right there, didn’t have to turn it. Put it down. If it would have been any slower – that guy on the edge I remember was right there diving across.”
Crosby’s kick then began a bit to the left …
“It was almost a heart attack at first,” Schum said.
Goode was in the scrum on the line of scrimmage, just waiting for some kind of indicator …
“You’re just kind of waiting on that crowd reaction,” he said.
When it drifted through, Schum shouted something, but he can’t recall what. Crosby nearly hit the turf and said after the game the emotion of the game and his sister-in-law Brittany’s battle with cancer overwhelmed him.
“All I could do was give him a big hug and lift him up because I knew he was about to get; we were about to get crushed by everybody,” Schum said.
Crosby can laugh a bit at himself now at the memory.
“I wish I would have celebrated differently, honestly,” he said with a smile. “That’s my one regret. It was almost like the emotion of so many things so it kind of just like overwhelmed me honestly. My reaction was real but it was just kind of like, I wish it would have been something … with a little more excitement. I always joked with Jake because he thought was something wrong because he didn’t know how to celebrate with me so he said he just grabbed me. I was just so happy I was able to come through there.”
It was a historic feat at the time, to make two, 50-yard field goals in the final two minutes of any game in the NFL. And the three men who made it happen can touch it like it was yesterday.
Goode took a photo of the collage when he visited Lambeau Field earlier this season and would like to get one of his own.
“Dallas is a special place for us,” Goode said. “We won the Super Bowl there. (Crosby’s) from Texas, I’m from Arkansas so it’s a closer stadium so you have a lot more people wanting to come to those games because it is closer and easier to get to instead of traveling to Green Bay, especially for people that are working. Being in that situation in that stadium was just remarkable. Can’t take it away from that moment because it was a playoff game and it is what it is. We were able to go in there, we were the underdog, and were able to go in there and do that was very memorable.”
Schum, who is still working out in the hopes of landing another punting job, keeps his jersey and game ball in his home office to keep the good vibes of that game tangible.
“I definitely have to say it was the best memory I have in Green Bay,” Schum said. “Just the situation. The craziness toward the end of the game like that. Just being part of – besides Aaron’s ridiculous throw and Cook’s catch – the biggest play of the game. At the time it was the biggest game I had ever played in so it was huge for me and it really just elevated that whole experience.
“It’s definitely the field goal that’s No. 1. It was an incredible experience.”
And on Sunday, Crosby said he’ll likely go find those yard markers before the game against the Cowboys.
“Just how we finished that game, the fact that we even got in that position with the throw and the catch on the sideline was unreal,” Crosby said. “To be able to cap that off and send us to the NFC championship is special.
“It was fun and I’ll cherish that memory forever for sure.”