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There's more to the story behind Mason Crosby's clutch kick

Matt LaFleur also discusses performances of Za’Darius Smith, Allen Lazard, and JK Scott from Sunday’s game

K Mason Crosby
K Mason Crosby

GREEN BAY – It supposedly wasn't even in Mason Crosby's range Sunday.

As the Packers crossed the Giants' 30-yard line early in the second quarter of their 31-13 victory, Head Coach Matt LaFleur had been told the 27 was the target for Crosby going that direction, meaning a 45-yard field goal was his max.

With MetLife Stadium at its snowiest and with the Packers trying to add to a 14-7 lead, it was fourth-and-8 from the 29, apparently two yards too far. Or not.

"I yelled at Mason, 'Hey, can you get it there,' and he gave me a thumbs up," LaFleur said on Monday, recapping the Packers' road win. "So I sent him out there, and it's a good thing. Those were important points at that point in time."

The spur-of-the-moment call worked out, as the 47-yarder was good by plenty to give the Packers a 10-point lead. Personal circumstances aside – Crosby's sister-in-law had passed away on Friday – the conditions alone made it his toughest kick of the season, and he's now 14-of-15 on field goals in 2019, as well as perfect on extra points (33-of-33).

"I'm going to trust what our players think they're capable of doing," LaFleur said. "I wanted to ask him at least. If he would have had any type of hesitation, I wouldn't have put him in that situation. I have a lot of confidence and a lot of faith in him and he's answered every time."

The story only adds to what was already a very emotional and memorable game for Crosby, who made all five of his kicks (one field goal, four PATs) to conclude a weekend of flying back and forth to Texas to be with family.

When Crosby went to talk to LaFleur about the situation on Friday, LaFleur admitted "it's hard to have the right words for anybody in that situation," but he simply asked Crosby how he wanted to handle it and told him the team would accommodate. Crosby hadn't missed a game in his career and still hasn't, with his streak now at 204 straight contests, 222 including postseason.

"It shows how important this football team is to him," LaFleur said. "Nobody knows what someone is going through in that type of situation. Obviously we all feel for him, but for him to come through for this football team means a lot to everyone in that locker room and in this organization.

"He's played at a high level all year long, a Pro Bowl level, and I'm just happy that he's a part of what we're doing here."

In his customary day-after-game review, LaFleur also praised three other individual performances.

Outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith was a force on defense despite not adding to his 10 sacks on the season. Lining up all across the defensive front, which he's been doing more and more of lately, Smith had five of the seven QB hits credited to the Packers in a defensive effort that limited the Giants to 258 total yards prior to a final garbage-time drive.

"He spent a lot of time in the backfield. The NFL I believe had him credited for 10 pressures on the quarterback. Of course (position coach) Mike Smith had him for two more than that," LaFleur joked. "He's been a consistent player. One thing I know we can count on each and every week is he'll go out there and play 100 miles per hour and make plays for us."

Receiver Allen Lazard was a playmaker too, in both of the other phases, apparently. LaFleur said Lazard was named a player of the game on offense, along with Aaron Rodgers, and on special teams.

Lazard recorded his first career 100-yard receiving game, including a 37-yard touchdown, and the press box stats had him for two tackles on the coverage units.

"I think that's a great message to everyone in that locker room," LaFleur said. "You can play, whether it's offense or defense, at a high level, but you can also play special teams at a high level.

"He's earned everything he's gotten. He shows up every day, he knows what to do, you know you're going to get max effort out of him. You see it in the run game. He's physical. He blocks."

Another standout on special teams was punter JK Scott, who's been trying to work out of a slump and had his best game in over a month. Scott posted impressive averages on his three punts (46.7 gross, 42.7 net) and pinned the Giants inside their own 20 twice, including once at the 6-yard line late in the fourth quarter.

"It was like it was early in the season," LaFleur said. "He's battling each and every day. I love what he's all about."

One thing LaFleur didn't like from the game was the Packers' running attack. Aaron Jones averaged just 1.6 yards per attempt (11 carries, 18 yards) while Jamaal Williams got his average up to 4.1 (10-41) with some late work in the fourth quarter after similar struggles.

LaFleur put a share of the blame on himself, trying to run the ball at times in three-receiver sets when the Giants had their base defense on the field. That produced some difficult blocking assignments, but other matchups needed to be executed more efficiently as well.

"We have to do a better job," LaFleur said of the run game in general. "It starts up front, as well as some of our plan."

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