GREEN BAY, Wis. – Thirty-seven seconds.
Thirty-eight yards from a shot at victory.
A makeshift offensive line in which four of the five starting blockers had combined for five NFL starts, including zero by the No. 3 left tackle.
A powerful defense standing in the way.
No challenge is too great, no mountain too high for Green Bay Packers stars Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams.
“This might shock you but I was actually kind of cautiously optimistic,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “Just knowing the type of players that we have, I thought that, hey, there’s a chance here.”
Facing a 28-27 deficit when they took possession at their 25-yard line, and figuring they needed to move the ball 38 yards to set up a 55-yard field goal, Rodgers and Adams took care of business with precision and poise on the game-winning 2-minute drill that understates the challenge by 83 seconds. They set up Mason Crosby for a 51-yard field goal as time expired and sent the Packers home with a 30-28 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in a heavyweight showdown on Sunday night.
On first down, Rodgers floated the ball over star linebacker Fred Warner and into the hands of Adams near midfield. The throw was ridiculous. Warner leaped for the ball at the 45 but the throw just avoided his fingers. Adams tried to run out of bounds but couldn’t get there. Tackled at the 50 with 27 seconds remaining, Rodgers rushed the offense to the line and clocked the ball with 20 seconds to go.
“No timeouts, from the 25, you need two chunk throws,” Rodgers said. “I knew that, so that’s why I wasn’t dink-and-dunk. You don’t have any time for that. We had to get at least 15 on the first play.”
Reaction: Packers Beat 49ers 30-28
With Nick Bosa coming free on a stunt, Rodgers threw behind Adams on second down, making it third-and-10 and about 13 yards from the field-goal target.
The degree of difficulty was a lot less this time. Adams found a big hole between four defenders. He caught the ball at the 33 and hit the deck with 12 seconds to go. Rodgers got the offense organized and calmly clocked the ball with 3 seconds to go.
“The fact we had no timeouts played a lot into it because they were kind of shielding that sideline, so the middle of the field was pretty wide open,” Adams said.
If Rodgers’ throw on the first play was the jaw-dropper, the understated heroes on the second were running back Aaron Jones and tight end Robert Tonyan. Their chip blocks – Jones on Bosa and Tonyan on Dee Ford – were so good that left tackle Yosh Nijman (on Bosa) and right tackle Billy Turner (on Ford) never laid a finger on their assignment.
When Rodgers spiked the ball to stop the clock with 3 seconds left, he pumped his fist as if he had just won the game. That’s the trust he and the team have in the 15th-year kicker. Sure enough, Crosby’s 22nd consecutive field goal was one of the biggest of his career.
“We’ve played together for a long time and he knows he did his part and he trusts that I’m going to go out there and do mine,” Crosby said. “I’m always happy when I can come through and finish off a game like that.”
What a difference 37 seconds makes, not just in a game but a season. With the late-game heroics, the went from a team sputtering along at 1-2 to a team that looks every bit like the Super Bowl contender they believed they were entering the season.
“Yeah, it gives some legitimacy to some of the things we’ve been talking about: That that was kind of an aberration and that we are a talented football team,” Rodgers said in juxtaposing the Week 1 loss to New Orleans to the Week 3 victory over San Francisco.
“The energy in the locker room postgame, that felt like a win. It felt like it was such a growth moment for us. I’m really happy for the guys to feel that, and it feels like, ‘OK, now we’re on our way. Now we can get into this, now we know how to win, and we can get this thing moving in the right direction.’”