Packers tight end Jimmy Graham is chased downfield by 49ers cornerback Jimmie Ward after a reception in the first quarter of Green Bay's 33-30 win over San Francisco on Monday night at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. 

GREEN BAY — Eight days earlier, Aaron Rodgers had stood at a podium in the bowels of Ford Field and said how much he loved Mason Crosby. Then, a few days after that, Rodgers reiterated his stance on his friend and longtime Green Bay Packers teammate, expressing his confidence and belief in his kicker and pal.

But on Monday night, the quarterback backed up his words with action. Rodgers did what he does best, running a pair of 2-minute drives to near perfection to rally the Packers from a fourth-quarter touchdown deficit to set the stage for a game-winning 27-yard walk-off field goal. And Crosby did what he does best, booting it through as the clock struck 0:00 on a potentially season-saving 33-30 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field.

“It’s very apropos,” Rodgers replied when asked what it meant to him to put Crosby in position to deliver with the game on the line. “What he went through last week, for the team to stick with him and guys to wrap our arms around him and encourage him, was great. And he responded.

“He was very happy afterward, and we’re happy for him.”

Asked if he could have scripted a better story after Crosby missed five kicks — four field-goal attempts plus an extra points — in last week’s 31-23 loss at Detroit, Packers coach Mike McCarthy replied, “I don’t think we could have. That’s exactly the way you want to see it end.”

While the road ahead remains daunting, Crosby allowed the Packers (3-2-1) to avoid the kind of loss that could have sent their season spiraling. Instead, they head into the bye week with a new lease on life after escaping against a relentless 10-point underdog that rolled up 401 offensive yards before the defense finally delivered several crucial fourth-quarter stops to allow Rodgers and Crosby to work their magic.

Calling it an “excellent adversity win,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after the game that he wasn’t thinking about the season being on the line. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t.

With post-bye games at the Los Angeles Rams (6-0) and New England Patriots (4-2) looming — not to mention games at home against Miami (4-2), then on the road again at Seattle (3-3) and Minnesota (3-2-1), running the combined record of their next five opponents to 20-9-1 — this was a game the Packers could not afford to lose. Especially since they were facing a team that was without its star quarterback (Jimmy Garoppolo) and No. 1 running back (Jerick McKinnon), both of whom were lost to season-ending knee injuries earlier this year.

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“I just love the fight of our football team,” McCarthy said. “Frankly, we needed that win. The Detroit game stung.”

With 7 minutes 46 seconds left in the fourth quarter and his team trailing, 30-23, McCarthy opted to go for it on fourth-and-3 from San Francisco’s 4-yard line. When blitzing 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt came in untouched, Rodgers was rushed on his throw and threw what he called a bad ball to rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the end zone, the threat was extinguished — and the 49ers (1-5) had Green Bay on the ropes.

Instead, the defense rose up and forces back-to-back three-and-outs — sandwiched around the Packers offense going three-and-out — and Rodgers and the offense got the ball back with 3 minutes to go on their own 42-yard line. That’s when Rodgers and Davante Adams went to work, first on a 38-yard completion to start the drive and then a 16-yard touchdown that, with Crosby’s extra point tying the game.

The defense then delivered its third straight stop with a Kevin King interception — on their final three possessions, the 49ers netted just 3 measly yards — and the Packers got the ball back at their own 10-yard line with 1:07 to go.

After a let’s-see-what-we-get handoff to running back Ty Montgomery gained 14 yards, the drive was kept alive despite Rodgers being sacked on third-and-15 San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman was flagged for defensive holding on Adams, a 5-yard penalty that came with an all-important automatic first down.

After that, Rodgers went to work, scrambling for 21 yards, then hitting rookie Equanimeous St. Brown on a 19-yard back-shoulder throw and Adams for 19 more to set up Crosby’s game-winner.

“I don’t know if it was a season-saving win for us, but it definitely was an important one,” said Rodgers, who finished the night having completed 25 of 46 passes for 425 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions (100.4 rating) as the offense finished with 521 total yards. “Especially with the prognosticating that will go on with the type of opponent we have coming up the next couple weeks.

“I don’t like to use the term ‘must-win,’ but it was an important one.”


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Jason Wilde covers the Packers for ESPN Wisconsin. Listen to him with former Packers and Badgers offensive lineman Mark Tauscher weekdays from 9-11 on “Wilde & Tausch” on 100.5 FM ESPN Madison.