Opponents had better beware if there are any more birthdays in the Crabtree family coming up.
Three weeks ago, Green Bay Packers tight end Tom Crabtree celebrated his son’s birthday with a 48-yard TD catch at Houston, the longest reception of his career. Until Sunday.
On his own birthday, Crabtree hauled in a 72-yard TD that finished off the scoring in the Packers’ 31-17 victory over Arizona at Lambeau Field. The unassuming and normally blocking tight end lined up in the backfield, slipped out past linebacker Paris Lenon and then had no one between him and the end zone as he snagged a perfect throw in stride from quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“Not bad,” Crabtree said when asked how that ranked as a birthday present. “The win is the important one.”
Crabtree’s catch-and-run was the Packers’ longest play from scrimmage this season. It was also the longest TD catch by a Green Bay tight end since Paul Coffman’s 78-yarder in 1979.
While teammates kidded around about how fast the 245-pound Crabtree was actually running, the bottom line was nobody caught him. Cornerback William Gay had nearly 10 yards to make up when Crabtree caught the ball short of midfield, and he didn’t catch him until the goal line.
“Fast enough, I guess,” Crabtree said. “I got in. I’m still tired. I need to spend this bye week doing some gassers or something.”
Getting ready to make more big plays would be just fine. In addition to his two long TDs this season, Crabtree also has a 27-yard TD on a fake field goal.
This one Sunday, though, was the longest catch he can remember since high school, and if he’s able to get another one, he’ll remember one thing to make a long run perhaps a little easier.
“I was looking over my shoulders, and I didn’t even think to look up at the Jumbotron,” he said. “I was joking with Greg (Jennings) here in the locker room that I’m still a little new to those 70-plus-yard touchdowns, so I didn’t even think to look up.”
Big rookie stop: Shortly before Crabtree’s long TD, the Packers defense made a huge stop near the goal line to keep Green Bay ahead by a full touchdown.
The Cardinals faced third-and-one from the Green Bay 2-yard line with the score 24-14, and rookie defensive lineman Mike Daniels got penetration on a LaRod Stephens-Howling run off right guard. Daniels wrecked the play and shared the tackle with linebacker A.J. Hawk, forcing the Cardinals to kick a field goal.
“Whenever I get asked about plays, it’s the same answer all the time: I was just playing football and doing what I was coached to do,” said Daniels, a fourth-round draft pick from Iowa. “The guy lined up across from me, defeat him, and then locate the ball and make the play. It happens like that sometimes.”
Getting more playing time of late with fellow rookie lineman Jerel Worthy out with a concussion, Daniels also notched his second sack of the season and his first since Week 2. That also came at an important time, with the Cardinals at midfield in the final minute of the first half.
The sack pushed Arizona back 10 yards, and the Cardinals punted two plays later, allowing the Packers to take a 21-7 lead into halftime.
Daniels credited outside linebacker Clay Matthews with attracting all the attention that gave him an opening to get the sack.
“He might take the distraction away from me, and here I come and slip in and make the play,” Daniels said. “I really give the credit to Clay. He orchestrated it, and I’m thankful I can have someone like that out there on my team.”
It’s probably not a coincidence that when Matthews left the game early in the third quarter with a hamstring injury, the Packers’ pass rush left, too. Matthews nearly sacked QB John Skelton but lost his hold on him as he tried to spin him around to the ground, missing out on what would have been his 10th sack of the season. Matthews limped off the field after that play and didn’t return.
Daniels’ sack late in the second quarter was the defense’s second, and last, sack of the game. The other was by defensive end Mike Neal on the game’s first series.
Another great grab: James Jones has made some of the best catches of his career this season – the falling-down grab with New Orleans cornerback Jabari Greer all over him to seal the win over the Saints and the diving, reach-around, tip-it-to-himself TD catch in Houston two weeks later are at the top of the list.
Jones’ 28-yard TD catch on Sunday might be right up there, too. Running a double move down the left sideline, Jones had to slow up and then outjump cornerback Jamell Fleming to haul in the throw as he fell into the end zone for the score.
“I don’t rank them,” Jones said. “I’m just glad I’m making them, putting points on the board for my team and helping my teammates win.”
The TD was Jones’ eighth this year, a new single-season career high. He had seven last season.
Another milestone: Donald Driver’s 10-yard catch in the second quarter was his only reception of the game, but it put him over 5,000 career receiving yards at Lambeau Field. He’s the only player in franchise history to reach the 5,000-yard mark at the stadium. Additional coverage - Packers vs. Cardinals