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Mr. Clutch


When you play for a team with the history that the Green Bay Packers sport, it isn't very often that you're able to accomplish a feat that has only been done once before in the previous 85 seasons of play.

Outside of the exploits of Brett Favre, who has virtually rewritten the Green and Gold's record books in his 13 seasons under center in Green Bay, not many current Packers can say they have accomplished such unique accomplishments.

Ryan Longwell has done just that.

With his back-to-back last-second game-winning field goals the past two Sundays, the eighth-year kicker from the University of California joins Pro Football Hall of Fame kicker Jan Stenerud as the only men to send the Packers to the locker room on winning field goals as time expired in consecutive weeks.

Longwell's heroics came on a 33-yarder to provide the final margin in the 34-31 win over the Minnesota Vikings last week and a 46-yard kick that he snuck through the uprights to end the 16-13 victory over the Houston Texans Sunday night.

Stenerud turned the trick in 1983, defeating two then-NFC Central foes, first the archrival Chicago Bears 31-28 on a 19-yarder as time expired December 4 at Lambeau Field. The Norwegian then kicked a three-pointer in overtime to beat the Buccaneers 12-9 from 23 yards out in overtime on Monday Night Football in Tampa.

Longwell, the team's all-time leading scorer with 918 points, has kicked 197 regular season field goals in 122 games for the Packers, few more clutch than the two to close out the fourth and fifth games in Green Bay's current five-game winning streak.

The kicker has proven to be remarkably accurate, and as he proved Sunday, impervious to psychological mind games from the opposition.

After the Packers had used their final timeout to stop the clock with four seconds remaining to set up the deciding kick, the Texans took a timeout of their own to "ice" Longwell before his 46-yard attempt.

"I've always said the icing thing, I'm not sure it works," Longwell said. "It kind of gives you a chance to make sure the field's right, make sure you've got everything in place and we took our chance to landscape a little bit and we had a good spot to kick from."

The "we" he referred to is himself and punter Bryan Barker, who took over the role as the team's holder when Doug Pederson was injured in October. Barker did a fantastic job pulling a low snap off the ground and getting the ball in position to be kicked.

The hold was so smooth Longwell said he never knew anything was amiss.

"He's been so good since he's taken over for Doug," Longwell said of Barker. "I thought Doug was the best I had ever seen, and Bark's right up there, if not better. He's so good and makes it look so easy. I didn't notice anything about it because he always makes it to look the same.

"I've always said I've got the best snapper in the league (in Rob Davis), now I have the best holder again and it makes my job a little easier."

Longwell has been nearly automatic this season, hitting 15 of 18 field goal attempts (83.3%), and although one of his three misses had come earlier in the night in Houston, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman was fully confident that #8 would put the finishing touches on the Pack's fourth quarter comeback when he sent the field goal unit onto the field.

"What can you say? Just if you get it to a certain spot, you know he's going to kick that field goal for you," Sherman said after the game. "I know he missed one earlier, but that's an oddity."

The coach continued to praise his placekicker Monday when asked if he considered Longwell to be underrated around the league.

"I don't think that there are many kickers who can come into Lambeau Field and kick as consistently as Ryan Longwell does," said Sherman. "It's certainly comforting to know that he's on our team. If he says he can make it, it's about 95% that it's going to go through the uprights."

Longwell has most assuredly earned the confidence of everyone in and around the Packers organization, and needless to say, if next Monday's game comes down to a potential game-winning kick, there is no one the Packers would rather see lining up to knock it through the uprights.

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