DALLAS — As soon as Dan Bailey’s 52-yard field goal sailed through the uprights, Mason Crosby glanced up at the scoreboard at AT&T Stadium to survey the situation.
Thirty-five seconds. Two timeouts. Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers’ veteran kicker, having already made a 56-yard field goal a few moments earlier, knew those three factors likely would put the playoff fate of his team on his right foot.
That’s exactly how Sunday’s NFC Divisional playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys would be decided.
After Rodgers connected with tight end Jared Cook on a 36-yard pass along the sideline, the Packers summoned Crosby to make the most important kick of their season with 3 seconds remaining.
Crosby made the first attempt from 51 yards, but he had to kick for a second time after Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett used his final timeout moments before the field goal.
The second try provided the same result as Crosby drilled the longest game-winning field goal in playoff history through the uprights to seal the 34-31 win and send the Packers to next week’s NFC Championship Game against the Atlanta Falcons.
“It’s kind of a blur right now. It’s unreal,” Crosby said. “We have 35 seconds on the clock and our offense can move the ball into field-goal range for a manageable kick. That’s just special. Aaron and Jared making that catch – that’s what this team has been doing now for the last eight weeks. It’s fun to be a part of.”
Amidst all the calamity and more than 90,000 fans screaming at the top of their lungs, holder Jake Schum and long-snapper Brett Goode gave Crosby space after Bailey’s 52-yard effort tied the game at 31.
Nobody was calmer than Crosby, who came into Sunday’s game already holding the NFL record for most consecutive postseason field-goal makes at 21.
Up and down the Packers’ sideline, there was quiet confidence if the offense could drive down into range that Crosby would hit the game-winner, especially after he nailed a 32-yarder against Chicago last month as time expired in a 30-27 victory.
“He’s got ice in his veins,” Schum said. “As soon as they got their field goal, we looked at each other and were like, ‘We’re going to win this game. It’s going to come down to us again.’”
After attempting only two field goals of more than 50 yards during the regular season, Crosby ended up making three field goals of more than 50 yards in the final 1:33 of regulation.
Crosby said his first was most difficult, especially since the 56-yard attempt would have put the Cowboys at their 46-yard line if he missed it with plenty of time for Dak Prescott to drive the offense down for the field goal.
Fortunately, the protection, snap and hold made for a smooth and efficient operation. Schum, who’s in his first season with the Packers, couldn’t remember the last time he was in a situation with a game-winning field goal until this season.
However, his kicker had been there before and it showed.
“You could see in his face, ‘This is just another kick. I’m going to crush this,’” Schum said. “That’s exactly what he did. It’s pretty awesome to be a part of it.”
Crosby stayed true to his approach throughout. Even when Garrett called the timeout, he walked back to the Packers’ sideline, took a deep breath and made sure not to overkick.
In the end, he made both to extend his NFL record streak and back up a comment from Aaron Rodgers made earlier this week when the Packers quarterback referred to Crosby as “the best kicker in the NFL.” Rodgers said it again after the game on Sunday.
“Aaron hit the nail right on the head,” Goode said. “We play in tough conditions and then you get in here and do that, too. Being able to do it every place, we just need to continue to do it.”
A native of Georgetown, Texas, Crosby still has many friends and family in the Dallas area, which made Sunday’s game-winner that much sweeter.
Around the visiting locker room, his teammates expected nothing less from Crosby. For the last 10 years, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer has stood on the Packers’ sideline waiting for moments like the one he encountered Sunday.
When his team needed him most, Crosby came through.
“Obviously to get the win here and make those kicks, that’s one I’ll remember for a long time,” Crosby said. “Being a Texas boy, growing up here and being able to do that in Dallas’ stadium is special to me. Obviously getting the win, that’s the most important thing and we’re moving on to Atlanta.”
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