Crosby lifts Packers past Eagles, 16-13
J.R. Reed (30) muffs a punt. (AP photo)
J.R. Reed (30) muffs a punt. (AP photo)
packrepted@aol.com
Posted Sep 9, 2007


The Packers opened the 2007 regular season by edging the Philadelphia Eagles in a game where Green Bay’s special teams and defense helped overcome a sluggish offense.

Mason Crosby’s 42-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining lifted the Packers to a 16-13 victory over the Eagles in the regular season opener Sunday before 70,598 fans at Lambeau Field. Green Bay extended its winning streak to five games dating back to last season, but the victory was hardly convincing, and the Packers were relieved afterward to start the season on a winning note.

"It's huge," said linebacker Nick Barnett. "It's so huge that we beat the Eagles here. In the four years since I've been playing those guys, we haven't won one game. We came close, we had some tough ones and finally to beat them, it feels great, especially to start off with a win on top of that."

The Packers won their home opener for the first time since topping the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 8, 2002 by a field goal in overtime. Green Bay was sparked by its special teams units and defense in topping the Eagles, whom many predict will win the NFC Championship this season.

“I’m very happy with the special teams, and what a great start for a rookie kicker,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. “I couldn’t be more happy with our special teams unit, particular the younger guys in the last year who have really stepped up. We’ve talked about be vastly improved in that area, and today is the first step in that.”

Despite a sputtering offense, the Packers beat the Eagles for the second time in the last six games dating back to 2000 when punt returner J.R. Reed muffed a punt after signaling for a fair catch with less than a minute left in the game. Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush pounced on the loose ball and Crosby, the team’s sixth round draft pick this season, notched his first game-winning kick.

Despite a high snap from Rob Davis, Crosby split the uprights to win the game.

“All I know is (holder) Jon Ryan got the ball right on the spot, and I was focusing on that,” Crosby said. “As soon as I saw the ball, everything was perfect to me. I just went after it. It felt great off my foot, and everything else just happened after that. It was an exciting moment for sure.”

Crosby, who beat out Dave Rayner in an intense competition in training camp to win a roster spot, also made attempts from 53 and 37 yards earlier in the game. He became the first Packers rookie kicker to win a game on a field goal since Chris Jacke in 1989 (Dec. 3, 1989, at Tampa Bay, W, 17-16).

Though Brett Favre struggled behind a young offense that was missing wide receiver Greg Jennings and running back Vernand Morency, he was able to tie John Elway's record with his 148th career victory as a starting quarterback. The win also counted as the 37th time Favre has led the Packers from a fourth-quarter tie or deficit to a win.

"It was tough," Favre said. "I haven't played the Eagles where it was not tough. That's an ugly win, but I've had plenty of games where we played a lot better and lost...I can't say enough about our defense and special teams, which was kind of the case in preseason. We put them in I don't know how many situations and they responded every time."

Green Bay was only able to generate 46 yards rushing and 215 yards passing while Favre turned the ball over on an interception and a fumble. Favre finished the day by completing 23 of 42 passes for 206 yards and no touchdowns for a passer rating of 58.2.

“It was a little rough,” said offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. “Certainly it was not as smooth as we had hoped and not as productive as we had wanted. We got an assessment of where we are at, and we’ve got a lot, a lot of work to do in every phase. We’re happy that the defense and special teams bailed us out, but it’s a team game and we’re happy that we won the game, that’s for sure.”

The Packers had 10 first downs to Philadelphia’s 13 and was 6 of 18 on third-down conversions (33 percent). The Packers were held to 3.4 yards per play on offense by the Eagles, and Favre was sacked four times by the Eagles.

“There wasn’t a whole lot of rhythm offensively at any point in time,” said Philbin. “It was a battle. It was a struggle.”

Rookie running back Brandon Jackson finished with 40 yards on 15 carries for a 2.7-yard per carry average as the Packers struggled to run the ball. Wide receiver Donald Driver returned from a foot injury to lead the Packers in receiving with six catches for 66 yards.

In his past two starts against Green Bay, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb completed 48 of 73 passes (65.8 percent) for 752 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions for a 131.8 passer rating. But Green Bay’s defense, despite being on the field for more than 18 minutes in the first half, kept McNabb and running back Brian Westbrook in check.

McNabb, who is coming off a major knee injury, completed 15 of 33 passes for 184 yards and one touchdown for a passer rating of 60.7.

“Our guys played extremely hard and had a good, fast start,” said defensive coordinator Bob Sanders. “I think if you ask our defensive linemen, they’re probably going to say that we left some sacks out there, but he’s a big, strong quarterback, and he’s hard to bring down. Our guys stayed after him good.”

Westbrook, who rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown in Green Bay’s loss to the Eagles on Oct. 2, 2006 in Philadelphia, finished with 85 yards rushing on 20 carries and no touchdowns. The Eagles were able to move the ball, finishing with 103 yards on the ground, and out-gained the Packers in total yardage, 283 to 215. But Philadelphia’s three turnovers resulted in 13 points for the Packers.

“They’re definitely playing with a lot of confidence and I think they will only get better,” said McCarthy. “The special teams were big today. You could make a point that they led us to a victory, but on offense we need to pick it up.”

Green Bay took a 10-0 first quarter lead off two Eagles turnovers. The first came when punt returner Greg Lewis muffed a punt inside the 20-yard line. Safety Atari Bigby attempted to pick up the loose ball but could not get control as it bounded into the end zone where linebacker Tracy White fought off tight end Matt Schobel under a big pile of players for his first career touchdown.

On the Eagles’ ensuing series, Barnett, who applied pressure early in the game on McNabb with blitzes, intercepted a pass that gave Green Bay the ball on the Eagles’ 34. But the Packers offense lost a yard in three plays, thanks to a false start penalty on guard Daryn Colledge, and was forced to settle for a field goal.

Crosby helped the Packers capitalize on the Eagles’ miscue by booting a 53-yard field goal attempt, his first as a pro, well through the uprights, giving the Packers a 10-0 lead.

McNabb and the Eagles got its offense in gear after Favre was intercepted by cornerback Sheldon Brown at the 38. Philadelphia marched 62 yards on 13 plays before Green Bay’s defense forced the Eagles to settle for a field goal. McNabb’s 36-yard pass to wide receiver Kevin Curtis along the right sideline to the Packers’ 6 keyed the drive. Green Bay’s defense stiffened, and David Akers made a 33-yard field goal with 13:30 left in the second quarter to slice the deficit to 10-3.

McNabb’s 9-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jason Avant helped the Eagles tie the game at 10-10 with 6 minutes left in the second quarter. The Eagles went 67 yards on nine plays as McNabb got into a rhythm by completing five of six passes for 54 yards, including a dump pass over the middle to running Brian Westbrook for 16 yards to the 9 to set up the touchdown.

The Packers offense showed a sign of life late in the first half. Favre moved the Packers from their own 17 to the Eagles 38 with less than a minute left in the half by completing five of seven passes. But Favre was sacked for a nine-yard loss by defensive tackle Montae Reagor to the Eagles’ 47 with 11 seconds left in the quarter. Favre completed a pass to Jackson that moved the Packers to the Eagles’ 32, but Green Bay was out of timeouts, using its last one after the sack, and unable to get off another play before time expired in the half.

The Packers were held to 106 yards of offense in the first half and converted just 2 of 7 third-down attempts (29 percent). Jackson was held to 13 yards on five carries. Favre was 11 of 20 for 100 yards passing, but Green Bay didn’t get a first down till Jackson plowed up the middle for a 6-yard run midway through the first quarter.

Akers’ 47-yard field goal capped a 59-yard Eagles drive with 8:15 left in the third quarter to give Philadelphia a 13-10 lead. Green Bay responded with a 51-yard drive and tied the game at 13-13 on Crosby’s 37-yard field goal with 45 seconds left in the quarter. Favre’s ability to escape two sacks and complete passes highlighted the drive.


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