It was decision time for the Green Bay Packers. After losing their season opener to the San Francisco 49ers, and up on the Chicago Bears, 3-0, late in the first half despite dominating the stat sheet, Green Bay was looking at a possible 0-2 start to a season that was following up their 15-1 campaign in 2011.
With 1:56 left in that first half, the Packers found themselves with fourth-and-26 at the Chicago 27-yard line after two straight sacks of Aaron Rodgers blew their offense back from the 11-yard line. One incomplete pass to receiver Randall Cobb later, it was time for the Pack to head back to the drawing board.
Nothing was working in the red zone, so kicker Mason Crosby lined up for an alleged 44-yard field goal ... and then, this happened.
Punter/holder Tim Masthay took the ball and pitched it out to backup tight end Tom Crabtree, who sauntered in for the touchdown. It was the pivotal play in a 23-10 win that put the Packers back on the good foot.
"Frankly, fourth-and-26 was not the plan," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said after the game. "I really called that for different reasons. It's a play fake. We've been working on that for two or three years and we were looking for a certain look from the Bears. They gave it to us and it was a great execution on our players' part. I was trying to send a message when I made the call and I was fine with the field position. Then our guys executed and I thought it really lifted our sideline up and our defense just kept going. Offensively we were able to put some points on the board. It was a big play in the game."
"I was watching up on the Jumbotron and something just looked a little off at first," Rodgers said. "I thought … somebody got bowled over right away, or it was going to get blocked, or we didn't catch it right. Then I saw Crabby running out the backside, I couldn't believe it. That's a gutsy call. You've got to score on that, 4th-and-26 from the 27."
Yes, indeed. Simple math tells you that there's not a lot of margin for error. Had Crabtree not scored, the Bears, who were struggling mightily on offense, might have found some momentum.
"We've been practicing it for awhile and watching film," Crabtree said. "When I got out there and kind of looked at their alignment I kind of knew we had them outnumbered. All it came down to was catching the pitch and just turning and running down field."
It was the first touchdown pass thrown by a punter in the 300-game history of Lambeau Field. Crabtree, who had scored one regular-season and one postseason touchdown each in his three-year career, topped it all off with the traditional Lambeau Leap. He then summed up his feelings on his Twitter account.
Asked about having a perfect passer rating in his NFL career, Masthay deferred all praise. "I'll close the passing books for myself for the rest of my career on that. I had the smallest part of anybody on that whole thing. I just had to shuttle-pass it to Tom, those guys blocked and he made a great run."
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