EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Mason Crosby wasn’t going to lie. It didn’t bother him at all that receiver Jordy Nelson couldn’t stay in bounds and continue down the sideline on his 27-yard catch on the game’s final drive at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
Crosby wanted to kick.
He hadn’t made a last-second, game-winning field goal since his NFL debut in Week 1 of 2007, and he wanted this one, badly. He even gave Nelson a thanks after the game, which ended 38-35 in favor of the Packers on Crosby’s successful 30-yard boot as time expired.
“He’s just lucky he made the field goal, or I would have been mad I stepped out of bounds,” Nelson said with a smile. “He did say that.
“I think that does a lot for a person’s confidence. To be in that situation and experience it, maybe we’ll need it down the road.”
Since Crosby beat the Philadelphia Eagles with a 42-yard kick in the final seconds of his first NFL game, he had been 0-for-3 in potential game-winning situations. In 2008, a 52-yard try at Minnesota sailed just wide in a 28-27 loss, and a 38-yarder late that season in Chicago was blocked in a game the Packers eventually lost in overtime. Then, last season, a 53-yarder at Washington clanged off the upright, sending another game into OT that the Packers lost.
“It’s special … to be able to do it on the road in a close game with a lot on the line for this team,” Crosby said. “It was really important to me and this team.”
This kick to beat the Giants was the shortest of Crosby’s game-winning tries, but an impressive element to it was that Crosby had to shake off a 43-yard attempt that he missed wide right on the final play of the first half.
The miss – Crosby’s second in his last three games after making all 16 of his field goal attempts through the season’s first nine contests – loomed large when the Giants drove 69 yards for the game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion with 58 seconds left. But Crosby wasn’t thinking about it on the sideline as quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed four straight passes covering 68 yards, or as he took the field with holder Tim Masthay and long-snapper Brett Goode for the final kick.
“No, I had moved on from that a long time ago,” said Crosby, who joked that he was just as proud of the bandage on his arm, a war wound from making a diving tackle on a kickoff return earlier in the game.
“As soon as they scored and got the two-point conversion, I saw we had a minute left and I was like, ‘All right, here we go. We’re going to get a chance to win.’ I looked at Tim and Brett and said, ‘Let’s get ready.’ I knew Aaron and our offense were going to get us in position to kick a game-winner.”
Like Nelson said, it might not be the last time the Packers will need points at crunch time.
“I definitely think it helps us in the long run,” receiver Greg Jennings said. “We haven’t had a game like this all year, down to the wire, the last drive, pretty much on us.
“It was a great overall win. It tested our poise and our resiliency and we were able to be resilient.”
No one more so than Crosby.
More visible impact: All season, fans have wondered where Clay Matthews’ big sacks and splash plays have been, while the coaching staff has defended the steady impact he’s had in every game, against the run and as a pass-rusher.
On Sunday, Matthews provided the best of both worlds.
Matthews intercepted a pass and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter, and he recorded a sack/fumble near the end of that period for another turnover.
It was the second straight game Matthews intercepted a pass. He also got one on Thanksgiving in Detroit, off a deflection by defensive lineman Ryan Pickett. This time, Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw released into the flat and quarterback Eli Manning tried to zip the throw in along the sideline. Matthews broke early, picked it in stride and strolled untouched for his third career defensive touchdown.
“It was a big play and I’m happy I got it,” Matthews said. “I was able to make some key plays for this defense.”
The sack was his sixth of the season and the forced fumble his second. He also got a couple of other quarterback hits, one in the end zone just as Manning released the ball – the type of play he’s been making all season but that doesn’t make a lot of headlines.
“I think I’ve been putting pressure on the quarterback throughout the whole year,” Matthews said. “Tonight I was able to get a great amount of pressure on the quarterback, being in his face. I liked the way I played tonight.”
QB streaks: With a passer rating of 106.2, Rodgers’ streak of 11 consecutive games with a rating above 110 came to an end. It was the longest single-season streak in league history for a rating above 110.
Rodgers did, however, record his eighth 300-yard passing game of the season, with 369 yards. That’s a new franchise record, topping the seven 300-yard games by Brett Favre in both 1995 and 2007.
With four touchdown passes, Rodgers also threw for at least three TDs in his ninth game this season, also a franchise record. Favre had eight three-TD games in 1996.
Injury update: In the fourth quarter, cornerback Charles Woodson left the game with a concussion sustained on a tackle attempt of Bradshaw, and tight end Andrew Quarless departed with what Head Coach Mike McCarthy termed a “significant” knee injury on kickoff coverage.
Earlier in the game, running back James Starks left with an ankle injury. Additional coverage - Dec. 4