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Cardiac Crosby Sends Packers To NFC Championship Game

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Rodgers, Cook, and Crosby Play Hero For Green Bay in Dallas

With about a minute and a half remaining on the game clock and the score knotted up at 28 in yesterday’s Divisional Round Duel in Dallas, Packers kicker Mason Crosby calmly sent a 56-yard field goal straight through the uprights to momentarily give Green Bay a late 31-28 lead.

It was one of those legendary kicks that someone who plays the position can only dream about, and he wasn’t even done yet, but neither was Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense.

Riding a wave of momentum that saw them rebound from a 21-3 deficit mid-way through the 2nd quarter, Prescott led a quick two-minute drill, completing 3 of his 5 passes for 42 yards to set up Dallas kicker Dan Bailey for a 50-plus yard field goal of his own to re-tie the game with 40 seconds to go.

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, in the process they broke the cardinal rule of football. They gave Aaron Rodgers the only thing he needs to rip your heart out, time.

After an 11-yard completion to Jason Witten set the Cowboys up in field goal range with under 50 seconds to go, Dallas head coach Jason Garrett made the decision to spike the ball rather than bleed the time down. A short completion out of bounds and a Nick Perry batted pass later, only five seconds had come off the clock.

With two timeouts remaining and 35 ticks left in the game, Rodgers took over.

On second down after a seam route to Jared Cook fell incomplete, Rodgers found running back Ty Montgomery on a check down that went for 17 yards to the 42-yard line after the Cowboys brought a heavy blitz.

Dallas would again bring pressure on the next play, as safety Jeff Heath came unblocked off the right edge and sacked Rodgers from behind. Incredibly, the two-time MVP was able to keep his hold on the ball despite the hard blindside hit.

Rodgers calmly and quickly hopped up and signaled for a timeout.

He was unable to hook up with Cook for the second time on the drive following the break in action, and the Packers faced a seemingly impossible 3rd and 20 with 12 seconds to go.

The Fox camera’s glided over the Green Bay huddle just at the perfect moment to catch Rodgers directing traffic, like we all did as kids, he was giving out routes on the fly to specific people like it was a backyard pickup game. In long yardage situations such as this one with time running out, it becomes one of those moments where creativity is key. And no one creates like Aaron Rodgers.

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As he took the snap the nation watched and waited, wondering what “The Wizard From The Frozen Tundra” had up his sleeve this time.

Rodgers rolled out to his left and set himself to launch, he then recoiled and sprinted further toward the Dallas sideline as Randall Cobb was blanketed in the middle of the field. Out of the corner of his eye he managed to see his tight-end Cook following him straight toward the boundary.

Off-balance, Rodgers let go a beautiful cross body throw that landed waist level into the hands of a falling Cook. Cook tip-toed the out-of-bounds line on the 36-yard completion in a way that was reminiscent of the late-great Michael Jackson executing one of his many signature dance moves on stage. Don’t believe me? Check Twitter, the meme’s have spoken.

For the second time in less than two minutes of game-clock, the Packers hopes to advance to the Conference Championship rested on the leg of Mason Crosby. Crosby had made an NFL record 22 straight postseason field goals as he stepped up to take the biggest of his career, this time from 51.

The snap and hold went without issue, and he nailed it straight through with plenty of yardage to spare. However, Garrett had taken a timeout just before the play.

If Green Bay was going to advance to Atlanta, Crosby would now realistically have had to make three 50-plus yard field goals in the final minutes of the game.

As he struck the ball on the final kick, it seemed to be hooking left. Against most of the laws of physics, the kick from Crosby curled back inside the uprights for a 34-31 Packers win.

With the make, Crosby successfully became the only kicker in NFL history to make two field goals of 50 yards or more in the final two minutes of a playoff game, also officially cementing his place in Green Bay lore.

Along with the growing legend of the Green and Gold(en) right foot of Crosby, Rodgers’ throw to Cook, who caught six balls for 104 yards in just his second playoff game in 8 years, will add to his growing list of immaculate heroics at the end of must-win games. The MVP candidate ended the game 28 of 43 for 356 yards and two scores, including his first interception since November.

Not to be overlooked, the quarterback on the other side in Prescott was also supremely impressive, completing 24 of 38 for 302 yards and three touchdowns. He often made the Packers’ wounded secondary look silly.

His battery-mate in the backfield, Ezekiel Elliott followed up his early season success against Green Bay with 125 yards on 22 carries, but was surprisingly often gone away from in short yardage situations. Specifically in the 3rd quarter with the Cowboys moving the ball with relative ease and facing a 2nd and 1, Garrett chose to run a wide-receiver screen over handing the ball to Elliott.

Green Bay’s Micah Hyde jumped the route and forced an uncharacteristic turnover from Prescott, killing all the momentum Dallas was riding.

Overall, it was a game in which the Packers proved to be the better team with the better quarterback and coach for 95% of the night. Next week when they travel to face probable MVP Matt Ryan and his historic Falcons offense, they’ll need more than just production from Aaron Rodgers to hold Atlanta down, because a “bend don’t break” defense isn’t going to get the job done against that team.