CINCINNATI — When does one team — and one kicker — get four cracks at a go-ahead or game-winning field goal in the final two minutes and 12 seconds of regulation plus overtime?
When the same kicker misses three of them and watches his counterpart miss twice, including one that he prematurely celebrated as good.
Such was Sunday’s 25-22 overtime win for the Green Bay Packers and their normally rock-solid kicker Mason Crosby. The result was equal parts a shocking victory for the visitors as it was an unfathomable defeat for the upstart Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
The ugly details — all of which happened with the game tied at 22-22 — were these:
• Crosby missed wide left from 36 yards with 2:12 left in regulation, wide left from 51 on the final play of regulation and wide left from 40 after Packers linebacker De’Vondre Campbell picked off Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow on the first play of overtime.
• In between Crosby’s first two misses, Bengals rookie kicker Evan McPherson hit the right upright and missed from 57 with 21 seconds left in regulation.
• After Crosby’s first miss in overtime, McPherson missed wide left from 49, jumping into the arms of holder Kevin Huber thinking he had won the game.
Crosby finally ended it with a 49-yard field goal that came with just one minute and 55 seconds left in overtime, preventing what might have been a fitting tie. After a jubilant celebration that could be heard through the cinderblock walls of the Packers’ locker room, the 37-year-old, gray-haired Crosby, who has kicked in 229 regular-season games and is the Packers’ franchise scoring leader, admitted he had never been in a game like that.
“I don’t think anyone has,” Crosby said.
He was right. It was the first game since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger that saw five missed field goals in the final three minutes of regulation or overtime, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau. It was also the only game since then with five missed potential go-ahead field goals in the fourth quarter or overtime.
“You live, you learn and I’m glad I got to hit that last one,” said Crosby
He nearly didn’t get the chance. After Aaron Rodgers hit Randall Cobb for a 15-yard gain on third-and-16, Packers coach Matt LaFleur wasn’t sure he could send Crosby out for another kick. He contemplated going for it on fourth-and-1 from the Bengals’ 32.
“That definitely crossed my mind,” LaFleur said. “Certainly, especially there at the end when it was just fourth and inches.” LaFleur said special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton called for the field-goal team.
“I went over to Mason, I could see the look in his eyes, there was zero flinch from him,” LaFleur said. “I literally asked him. I walked over, he was in the kicking net, he was coming back towards the field, and I said hey, ‘What do you think?'”
Crosby’s response, according to LaFleur: “He’s like, ‘I got this.’
“So I was like, ‘All right, you got it,'” LaFleur said. “‘Go do it.'”
Rodgers had a similar sideline chat with Drayton.
“I was looking for Mo because that was a big decision: Do we go for it with Mace having missed a few kicks?” Rodgers said. “And I said, ‘Mo, is he going to make it?’ And he said, ‘Hell, yeah, he’s going to make it.’
“So let’s kick it then,” Rodgers added. “He was confident. I was confident. I had been staying way down on the end — the first couple I was more to the middle of the teams, so maybe the good juju was down on the end. So I’m going to make sure I’m down on the end for future game-winning kicks.”
Before Sunday, Crosby had not missed a regular-season field goal since Week 17 of the 2019 season. He ran his streak of consecutive makes to 27 by making his first three on Sunday, although he missed an extra point.
“I went up to him and just told him I loved him,” Packers running back Aaron Jones said. “That was it. He told me he loved me, gave me a little head nod and went out there and hit the game-winner. You’ll always stay with your teammates no matter what. I had a fumble last weekend. My teammates had my back. It’s the same thing that goes on there. We’re going to have his back.”
While the Packers won their fourth-straight game thanks in part to 344 passing yards from Rodgers — 206 of that on 11 catches by Davante Adams — and 103 yards rushing from Jones, the Bengals thought for a moment that they were the ones who would walk out at 4-1.
McPherson continued to celebrate what he thought was the game-winning kick with 4:14 left in overtime even as the officials made the no-good signal.
“It’s a weird feeling, definitely, celebrating and then it’s like bringing you back down to Earth,” said McPherson, who was 0-for-2 on the day. “Like, ‘Ah yeah, I actually missed it.’ Last year, senior year, I kind of had one against LSU that I thought I made. It was to tie the game, and it just kept drifting. I thought it went in, maybe celebrated a little too soon, again. We’ll bounce back, for sure.”
ESPN’s Ben Baby contributed to this report.
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