Cowboys coach Jason Garrett’s last gasp was calling timeout in hopes of icing Packers kicker Mason Crosby with three seconds left in Sunday’s game.
Kickers, apparently, don’t miss playoff field goals anymore.
They are 33-for-33 in this year’s playoffs and — look away, Vikings fans — 64-for-66 (.970) since Blair Walsh duck-hooked his 27-yarder in the closing seconds of last year’s 10-9 wild-card loss to Seattle.
Yeah, it figures.
But, wow, what an impressive run of mental toughness for the men who man the position that’s generally overlooked and underappreciated for all but a few ticks of every 60-minute game.
Yes, the quarterbacks were great in the closing seconds of Sunday’s Packers-Cowboys NFC divisional game at top-seeded Dallas. But their back-and-forth battle became an instant classic because the kickers, Crosby and Dallas’ Dan Bailey, were perfect.
In the final 98 seconds, Crosby and Bailey traded 50-yarders like it was pregame warmups. Crosby hit a 56-yarder to put Green Bay on top 31-28. Fifty-eight seconds later, Bailey tied it with a 52-yarder. Thirty-seven seconds later, Crosby hit a 51-yarder that was waved off by Garrett’s timeout.
No problem. It had been six years to the date since Crosby missed a kick in the playoffs. He just lined up and hit the one that counted, too. Packers 34-31.
Yes, the big story this week is the quarterbacks. And one couldn’t ask for a better foursome for Sunday’s conference title games.
In the AFC, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl champion, travels to New England to face Tom Brady, a four-time Super Bowl champion and two-time MVP. No matter who wins, this will be the 14th time in the past 15 seasons that the AFC’s Super Bowl quarterback has been Brady, Roethlisberger or Peyton Manning.
In the NFC, Rodgers, a Super Bowl champion and two-time MVP, travels to Atlanta to face Matt Ryan, the likely MVP winner this season. Each will face a defense that’s just vulnerable enough to make this a wild shootout until the final second.
And who better to take that one final-second, pressure-packed swing of the leg than this final foursome of kickers?
In 48 postseason games, Crosby, Atlanta’s Matt Bryant, New England’s Stephen Gostkowski and Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell have hit 74 of 79 (.937) playoff field-goal attempts.
Crosby, 32, has made 23 consecutive playoff field goals. He hasn’t missed since the 2011 postseason and is 26-for-28 in the playoffs.
Gostkowski, 32, has made 17 straight playoff field goals. He hasn’t missed since the 2010 postseason and also is 26-for-28 in the playoffs.
Bryant, 41, has made seven straight playoff field goals. His only playoff miss came with the Giants in the 2002 postseason.
Boswell, 25, has made 14 straight playoff field goals, including a playoff-record six while accounting for all of Pittsburgh’s scoring in Sunday’s 18-16 win at Kansas City. The second-year pro’s next playoff miss will be his first.
The four kickers still standing are a combined 14-for-14 in six playoff games this season. Overall, 11 playoff kickers have made all 33 attempts — including seven of at least 50 yards — in eight playoff games. (However, there have been two missed extra points, by Bryant and Seattle’s Steven Hauschka.)
Only three postseason games remain this season. If no one misses a field goal, it will be the first time kickers have gone an entire postseason without a missed field goal during the Super Bowl era.
The last time it happened was 1964, when the only postseason game was the NFL title game. The Cleveland Browns beat the Baltimore Colts 27-0 in that game. Lou Groza made the only two field goals attempted.
So, yeah, we’re seeing some special quarterback play. But don’t overlook the kickers. Rodgers sure isn’t.
“For Mason to hit those two kicks,” Rodgers told reporters after Sunday’s game, “he’s the best kicker in the league. … He’s made a bunch of them in the playoffs. It’s just incredible that he makes it twice.”
Three, if you count Garrett’s attempt to ice him.