GREEN BAY – Mason Crosby and Hunter Bradley had talked about this possibility for the better part of a year.
The idea of the Packers’ longtime kicker and second-year long snapper executing a Lambeau Leap in tandem whenever the field-goal unit made its next game-winner.
Fittingly, one day shy of the one-year anniversary of Crosby’s last game-winner against San Francisco, Green Bay’s all-time leading scorer hit another from 23 yards to propel the Packers to a 23-22 victory over the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field.
It was one of three field goals Crosby made on Monday night, including a 37-yard attempt before halftime and a 48-yard try early in the third quarter.
After clinching the Packers’ fifth win of the 2019 campaign, Crosby did need a little help remembering what to do next. Fortunately, Bradley was there to usher the kicker’s first Lambeau Leap in 12-plus seasons in Green Bay.
“If you kind of saw, he had gone through the line and I see him, and it was like, ‘Oh, this is happening now,’” said Crosby, who’s made 10 of his 11 field-goal attempts this year. “I didn’t like running from my teammates, it feels odd to me, I like celebrating with the guys, but that was pretty awesome.”
Bradley said the negotiations to do a Lambeau Leap together “became more serious” during the offseason program with the two “FIFA” video-game players exchanging ideas for how to go about it.
The original plan called for the long snapper to hold his hands out to lift Crosby to the fans. Bradley was positioned for that prior to his kicker lunging for the wall himself. Crosby was quickly followed by most of the field-goal unit and a barrage of Packers players from the sideline shortly thereafter.
“He was hyped,” Bradley said. “I was honestly just hoping that he remembered to do it because I took off running. Out of the corner of my eye, I just saw Mason flying down. I was like, ‘Alright, here we go.’ And then he got there and just jumped. I was like, ‘Well, I guess I'm just gonna throw him up there now.’ It was a cool experience.”
It was an emotional night on several fronts for Crosby. Professionally, it was a bit of redemption for his nightmarish game last year against the Lions in which Crosby missed four field goals and an extra point in a 31-23 loss at Ford Field.
On a personal level, Monday night was also the annual Packers vs. Cancer game. Crosby’s wife, Molly, had a neuroendocrine tumor removed the day after the Packers’ preseason finale against Kansas City.
Molly, progressing well in her recovery, was in attendance to watch her husband’s kick and the Lambeau Leap that followed.
“Just to be able to finish off a night like that, it’s definitely one we’ll remember,” Crosby said. “And just the initiative of the Packers vs. Cancer and the Crucial Catch that the NFL does, that’s special stuff. And what a community and the support that comes from that. I’m just so thankful to be able to have the opportunity to come out here and play football and get a win like this and then go and celebrate with my family.”
It’s how you finish: It wasn’t exactly the start the Packers’ defense was looking for, but the finish couldn’t have been much sweeter.
After the Lions hit two plays to receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Hall for 124 total yards to open their first two scoring drives of the game, Green Bay’s defense didn’t concede another play of more than 25 yards the rest of the way.
After scoring 13 points on its first three possessions, Detroit managed only 75 total yards of offense and three field goals over the final 2½ quarters with Green Bay’s dime package generating three sacks on third down to hold the Lions in check.
Detroit finished 3-of-13 on third downs and 1-of-3 in the red zone.
“In the first half, we made some mistakes and it cost us, and they capitalized off them,” said Preston Smith, who now has seven sacks on the year after his 1½-sack performance against the Lions. “We knew if we eliminated those mistakes in the second half, then we’d get back to the defense we’re known for being – a violent defense, high-execution defense with guys flying around, playing football and having fun together.”
Nowhere to run: After up-and-down performances against the run in recent weeks, the Packers’ defense got back to what it does best against the Lions and their up-and-coming running back Kerryon Johnson.
Whether it was a renewed emphasis on fundamentals or simply not overthinking things, Green Bay held Detroit to only 58 yards on 20 carries with quarterback Matthew Stafford’s 10-yard scramble representing the Lions’ longest run.
Johnson, who had 25 carries for 125 yards against Kansas City before the Lions’ Week 5 bye, was limited to only 13 carries for 34 yards on Monday night.
“I thought our run defense was really great all night from start to finish,” said defensive lineman Dean Lowry, who had four tackles. “That’s a big part of who they are. The Lions have a great run offense. We know if we could stop them that would put them in tough situations with third-and-long and third-and-middle.
“That’s something we’ve been struggling the past few weeks is the run game, so to see that show up in a positive way was really gratifying.”
Lambeau Field hosted a Monday Night Football matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions on Oct. 14, 2019.
Winning the close ones: After being on the losing end of six one-score losses a year ago, the Packers have turned the table with three one-score victories through the first six weeks.
It’s enabled Green Bay (5-1) to pull a full game ahead of Minnesota (4-2) for first place in the NFC North. The Packers now go a full two months before their next division game, against the Bears (3-2), in Week 15.
“Obviously, we want to win these games,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “It could’ve gone the other way around, but as long as we have the vision out in front of us that we want, we’re just going to continue playing hard and hopefully we continue to get these adverse wins like we did today.”