WIN BY A FOOT

Ma­son Crosby finds redemp­tion as Pack­ers es­cape in re­mark­able fin­ish, 33-30

Packer Plus - - Front Page - Pete Dougherty

— The Green Bay Pack­ers saved their sea­son Mon­day night, and a re­mark­able save it was.

Re­ally, they looked dead, in this game and very pos­si­bly for 2018 as well. Even though it’s only Week 6, to go be­low .500 with a loss at home to a one-win team play­ing with­out its start­ing quar­ter­back would have been dev­as­tat­ing.

Not that the Pack­ers would have been math­e­mat­i­cally out of it, of course. But with the tough road trips they’re fac­ing in the fi­nal 2½ months — we’re talk­ing at the Los An­ge­les Rams, at New Eng­land, at Seat­tle, at Min­nesota and at Chicago — it’s just hard to see how that would have turned out well, even in the week-to-week, who-knows-what­might-hap­pen NFL.

Now that they’ve pulled off the stun­ning come­back with a fi­nal-play field goal for the 33-30 win over San Fran­cisco, the Pack­ers shouldn’t fool them­selves into think­ing all’s well, or even close. Too much felt and went wrong yet again to buy into that.

But after a truly re­mark­able fi­nal four min­utes in which they did every­thing they’d failed to do most of the night — they got two stops and two scores in that short time — the Pack­ers are, in­cred­i­bly, 3-2-1 and alive. And don’t think they don’t know what was at stake as the game looked like it was slip­ping away.

“I don’t know if it was a sea­son-sav­ing win for us,” quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers said, “but it def­i­nitely was an im­por­tant one, es­pe­cially with prog­nos­ti­cat­ing that will go on with the type of op­po­nents we have com­ing up the next few weeks, and ob­vi­ously with them be­ing road games. This was an im­por­tant game for us. I never like to use the term ‘must win,’ but it was an im­por­tant one.”

Yes, it’s re­mark­ably rare when you can say a Week 6 game is must-win, but this was the ex­cep­tion for the Pack­ers. Yet you wouldn’t have known it by the way they played from the sec­ond quar­ter un­til the game’s fi­nal four min­utes.

Dur­ing that long stretch, their dis­jointed of­fense came away from two great scor­ing chances with only field goals. They had no chem­istry or flow in play call­ing or ex­e­cu­tion. Run­ning back Aaron Jones played more this week but still had only eight touches (for 41 yards). Rodgers again put up big num­bers (425 yards pass­ing) and there’s no get­ting around that he came through when it mat­tered most. But he held the ball too long, too of­ten again, and didn’t have what you’d call a good game, ei­ther. Even with the out­come pos­si­bly on the line down a touch­down with 5:33 left, the Pack­ers, re­mark­ably, went three-and-out. That eas­ily could have been it.

Es­pe­cially be­cause on the other side, their run de­fense was a dis­as­ter — 49ers run­ning backs Ra­heem Mostert and Matt Breida com­bined for 148 yards on 26 car­ries. Safety Ken­trell Brice gave up another long touch­down pass (67 yards to Mar­quise Good­win), and the Pack­ers’ pass rush and cov­er­age of­ten made C.J. Beathard (115.3 rat­ing) look like a Pro Bowler con­vert­ing third downs.

The Pack­ers in fact were out­played for most of the night and too of­ten showed lit­tle life or en­ergy or ca­ma­raderie or any­thing.

“It def­i­nitely felt that way,” Rodgers said of the blasé play for much of the game. “Just a cou­ple things. We had a cou­ple men­tal er­rors, I missed a cou­ple throws, and we’re just not on the same page. Jimmy (Gra­ham) had a route where I was think­ing he was turn­ing in and he was think­ing about turn­ing out. We’ve got some stuff to look back at. Ob­vi­ously, it’s go­ing to feel bet­ter to­mor­row after a win than what it would have felt like be­ing 2-3-1 after the bye.”

Yet, de­spite it all, the Pack­ers at least came away with the win. In the NFL, there’s no apol­o­giz­ing for that.

And it re­ally was re­mark­able how this game turned in the fi­nal four min­utes.

For most of the night, the 49ers’ blitzes got home and ei­ther sacked Rodgers or forced throw­aways, whereas when­ever Pack­ers de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike Pet­tine blitzed on third down, Beathard went un­touched and con­verted.

But with the game on the line, every­thing changed. The 49ers di­aled back the pres­sure, and Rodgers con­nected on two big plays to Da­vante Adams (38 and 19 yards) and a huge third-and-2 back­shoul­der throw to rookie Equanimeous St. Brown (19 yards). And with the 49ers driv­ing for a pos­si­ble game-win­ning field, safety Ha Ha Clin­ton-Dix got home on a third-down blitz and pres­sured Beathard into his lone big mis­take of the night, a down­field un­der­throw that Kevin King picked off.

“You ob­vi­ously want to go into the bye week clean,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think we’re go­ing to be in pretty good shape med­i­cally so our guys have a chance to rest up and get back at it, be­cause we know the stretch run we have there. Lot of good things tonight, ob­vi­ously some things we’d like to do bet­ter. But that’s what the bye week is for.”

The Pack­ers in fact should come out of the bye in good shape. Geron­imo Al­li­son (ham­string), Ran­dall Cobb (ham­string) and Jaire Alexan­der (groin) should be back from their in­juries. Rodgers, too, talked of aban­don­ing his knee brace after the week off.

But McCarthy has plenty to worry about, too. Through six games this has not looked like a good team. Not by any stretch.

So yes, the Pack­ers saved their sea­son Sun­day night, and it re­ally was stun­ning.

But they have a long, long way to go to make it as sea­son worth sav­ing.

DAN POW­ERS / USA TO­DAY NET­WORK-WIS­CON­SIN

Pack­ers quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers con­grat­u­lates Ma­son Crosby on his game-win­ning field goal.

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