Packers get 57-yard field goal from Crosby, who continues his payback for career-worst game 2 years ago in Detroit
Over on the Ford Field sideline, Matt LaFleur fumed. Less than four minutes left in Sunday’s fourth quarter, the Green Bay Packers nursing a touchdown lead, he watched his offense jog off the field after calling a pass play Aaron Rodgers had to throw out of bounds.
LaFleur second-guessed himself. He should have called a run, he thought. Never mind if it was third-and-9. Yes, his play calling has been pedal to the floor all season, a series of aggressive decisions. This moment, he now believed, required a cautious approach.
Out of options, LaFleur continued to stew as he sent his field goal unit onto the field. He was midway through his mulling when the whistle blew. Elgton Jenkins, false start, 5-yard penalty. The Packers had been sitting on the Detroit Lions’ 37-yard line. Their line to kick a field goal was the 40.
Special-teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga knew what that should’ve meant.
“Shawn was ready to throw the punt team out there,” LaFleur said.
Before he could, the head coach turned to his kicker.
On the sideline, LaFleur asked Mason Crosby how he felt. The longest field goal the 14-year veteran has made is 58 yards. This would be from 57. Indoors, yes, but still stretching the outer limits of what was possible.
“I looked at Mason,” LaFleur said, “and said, ‘Can you hit this?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ And I just, I figured we could fudge that line a little bit.”
Crosby has authored so many signature moments in his decade and a half with the Packers. Another came Sunday, the 36-year-old booming that 57-yard field goal over the crossbar. The kick sealed a 31-24 win over the Lions. It clinched a second straight NFC North championship under LaFleur, who is now 23-6 in the regular season as the Packers head coach.
It gave the Packers possession of the NFC’s top seed, putting them in the driver’s seat for not only home-field advantage in the playoffs, but the conference’s first-round bye. The Packers, at 10-3, have an identical record to the New Orleans Saints, who lost Sunday at the Philadelphia Eagles. They also own the head-to-head tiebreaker, by virtue of their Week 3 win in New Orleans.
That Crosby’s kick came inside Ford Field was lost on nobody. Two years ago, Crosby had perhaps the worst moment of his career at Detroit. He missed four field goals and an extra point, becoming the first NFL kicker to miss five kicks in a game in more than 20 years.
Those misses took 13 points off the board. The Packers lost by 8.
Crosby already has exacted his revenge on the Lions. He booted not one, but two game-winning field goals with no time on the clock last season, the second clinching a playoff bye in the 2019 finale. He might just keep the Lions on his permanent payback list.
“For him,” receiver Davante Adams said, “I’m sure that probably jumped to the forefront of his mind running out there, especially with the penalty, getting it pushed back another 5 yards. It just says a lot about him as well, just the mindset to say, ‘Let’s move past whatever happened before, focus on this and get it done, because my team needs me.’
“I mean, we love Mason to death just for the way he’s been doing it for such a long time now, such a high level. I feel like this is kind of second nature for him.”
It’s remarkable how far Crosby has come since that day inside Ford Field two years ago. His career was at a crossroads after that 2018 season. The Packers brought kicker Sam Ficken into training camp before the 2019 season, forcing Crosby to compete for his job.
Crosby went out that fall and made 22 of his 24 field goals. He nailed 40 of his 41 extra points. He’s been imperfect this season, missing three of his 46 extra points, but 15 times the Packers have asked him to kick a field goal. He’s now made all 15.
None were bigger – or longer – than Sunday’s 57-yarder through Ford Field. A kick that was 5 yards deeper than it should have been. It’s the type of situation the Packers might see again in the playoffs, when much more than a divisional title and potential top seed might be on the line. A Super Bowl contender needs many things, and a reliable kicker is one of them.
So it’s telling what LaFleur considered – or, more specifically, did not consider – when he paused his sideline second-guessing and focused on a problematic situation. No, it was not an easy call to still kick a field goal. A miss would have given the Lions possession with a short field, trailing only by a touchdown.
Teams set field goal markers for a reason. They’re woe to kick from behind them. LaFleur never hesitated.
After the game, he didn’t even have a target for how far back the Packers would have needed to be for Crosby to not get his shot.
“You know what,” he said, “I don’t even know. It was just one of those deals in the heat of the moment. … That never crossed my mind. I looked out there, I looked at him, I was like, ‘40-yard line. Hey, can you hit it?’ And he did.
"That’s a lot of faith and belief in Mason’s abilities. He knows himself, and he’s been doing this for a long time. I’m just glad he made us right.”