|Packers' Tom Crabtree celebrates as he scores a touchdown on a pass from holder Tim Masthay during the first half of Thursday night's game against the Bears. (AP Images)|
In an offensively challenged game between two NFC North rivals, the highlight of the Packers' 23-10 win Thursday night over the Bears was a fake field goal that caught just about everyone – including many Packers players – off-guard.
Staring at fourth-and-26 from the Bears' 27-yard line with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, the Packers lined up to kick a field goal. But after taking the long snap, holder Tim Masthay pitched the ball to TE Tom Crabtree. Crabtree got multiple important blocks, including a crucial one from fellow TE Ryan Taylor, and bee-lined into the end zone for the game's first touchdown and a 10-0 Packers lead.
The buzz word around the locker room after the game was “gutsy,” but Masthay and Crabtree said the success of the play was no fluke.
“The element of surprise was the biggest thing on that play,” Crabtree said. “It's a gutsy call and the guys up front executed just like we practiced it.
“We've been practicing it for a while and watching film. 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.”
Masthay agreed that the play has been well-rehearsed and added that the biggest surprise was not that it worked, but that it was even called in such a high-risk situation.
“We've been practicing that for a while,” Masthay, the Packers punter, said. “To be honest, I was surprised when the call came in because it was fourth-and-26. That was a really gutsy call by Coach [Mike McCarthy]. I had to basically make sure a certain look was there and it was, so we kept it on and Tom [Crabtree] made a great run and the guys blocked well.”
The fake field goal came after nearly two full quarters of offensive futility for the Packers. They had mustered just three points and hadn't been able to get into any kind of rhythm. The previous four drives had resulted in three punts and a field goal.
Crabtree said the unexpected touchdown boosted the Packers' energy and injected some life into the struggling offense.
“Everybody was pumped up,” he said. “The guys that weren't really in on it – the offensive or defensive guys on the sideline – it kind of caught them off-guard and they were wondering what happened. We were all pumped and it kind of got the juice going.”
QB Aaron Rodgers, who normally misses nothing on the field, was one of the players who didn't see the fake field goal run coming.
“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' [Tom Crabtree] 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.
“That's quite a call. I'm glad it worked.”
And what did the man who made the gutsy call have to say about it?
“Frankly, fourth and 26 was not the plan,” McCarthy said. “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.”
Follow Packers reporter James Carlton on Twitter @CBSPackers.