For the third time in five weeks, Ryan Longwell closed out a Green Bay Packers victory with a game-winning field goal in the final seconds.
While his 23-yarder with two seconds remaining on the clock in Sunday's 16-13 win over the Detroit Lions seemed like nothing new from the seasoned veteran, it was his first game-ender this year in the less than ideal conditions of a wintry Lambeau Field.
Longwell's first game-clincher of the year came on a 33-yard boot to beat the Minnesota Vikings 34-31 in Green Bay on November 14 under relatively balmy conditions with the temperature in the 40s and little to no wind. He repeated his heroics with a 46-yard kick to close out a 16-13 win under the closed roof at Houston's Reliant Stadium seven days later.
Those kicks may as well have been made in perfect conditions compared to what the eighth-year man from the University of California was dealing with Sunday in northeast Wisconsin. The thermometer was at freezing at kickoff (three hours and twenty minutes before he split the uprights to give the home team the win) with winds gusting up to 40 miles per hour at times and the grass under his feet a mushy bog from the week's wet weather.
GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman didn't know exactly how to put into words the confidence he feels in his kicker after the game.
"What can you say?" the coach asked. "I look down at him, he gives me a thumbs up - I can't say I still don't say a few prayers when he's lining up to kick it, I do - but they're always answered."
Longwell was equally as praising of his long snapper and holder, Rob Davis and Bryan Barker, for the role they played in his game-winner, as well as the two earlier field goals he kicked in the second half.
"I've always said there's nothing routine about a field goal, and today there was nothing routine about extra points," Longwell said. "It was a tough, tough kicking day and I can't say enough about Rob and Bryan. Rob does an incredible job snapping in this weather. You really grow to appreciate a guy who can snap it through this wind and Bark's been amazing holding the ball."
Even though he's now kicked three game-winners in a span of just over a month, Longwell said that it never gets old.
"It's always exciting," he said. "It kind of looked like when we were down by three that we were going to have to hit a field goal to tie it and a field goal to win it."
Speaking of the conditions in which he made kicked his latest game-winner, Longwell said Sunday was the worst he's seen in his eight years on the venerable "frozen tundra".
"It was as tough as I've ever seen this place," he said. "The wind was howling, the field was swampy. The wind was blowing harder than I've ever seen it blow, so it was extremely tough. This is a day you appreciate a guy like Rob Davis who rotates the ball so fast that it can kind of cut through that wind."
One thing Longwell has yet to enjoy in his career - a career that has seen him rocket to the top of the Packers' all-time scoring list with 942 points and 202 field goals made - is a trip to the Pro Bowl. Longtime teammate William Henderson feels that he's well overdue to be recognized as one of the top kickers in the NFL.
"Can we get some Pro Bowl bids for that guy?" asked Henderson after the game. "Finally will people understand how difficult it is kicking in bad weather, kicking in tough elements and being consistent like that guy has been over the years? Can we finally send him where he needs to be and getting the respect that he deserves?
"Ryan has done such a great job for us over and over again and I can't give him enough credit for being a consistent guy. He doesn't do it for the grandeur, he doesn't do it for the adulation from everybody else, he just does it because he's a team player. He's proud of his job and what he has to do and he goes out there and does it well."
Longwell was flattered with his teammate's praise and said he'd love a chance to go to Hawaii for the All-Star game at the end of the season.
"It would mean a lot to me, it would mean the world to me," the kicker said. "I'd love to go; I've never said I wouldn't want to go. I feel I'm one of the better if not the best - top three or four kickers in the league, and I think I've proven that. We'll just need our fans to go out and load the internet over the next couple of days."