For the Green Bay Packers to win the close games that probably will make the difference between success or failure during the second half of the season and, potentially, the playoffs, they’ll need more from kicker Mason Crosby.
Crosby is 10-of-15 on field goals this season, his 66.7 percent accuracy giving the Packers’ the worst success rate in the NFL. After making his first five attempts, he’s 5-of-10, including a 32-yarder off the upright against Jacksonville and a 44-yarder that missed to the left against Arizona.
The hope is the bye week and a good week of preparation will get Crosby back to where he was in 2011, when he made 24-of-28 field-goal attempts -- a career-best 85.7 percent.
“I thought prior to the Arizona game, he might’ve been burdened,” special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said on Thursday. “I thought he made some adjustments in that week and I thought he kicked the ball well that week and he missed a field goal that he hit a good ball on. He misjudged the conditions a little bit, and that can happen. I think he’s where he needs to be mentally and physically. But the bottom line is, you have to make those field goals, and we are going to need him to do that as we move forward.”
Slocum said Crosby has had a “very good week of practice” leading into Sunday’s game at Detroit but made no bones how Crosby “needs to make kicks as we go forward.”
That’s exactly what coach Mike McCarthy expects as the Packers begin a critical season-ending stretch of five games against NFC North foes that will determine its playoff fate.
“I get an opportunity to get down to practice early and watch the battery of those three guys work,” McCarthy said of Crosby, holder Tim Masthay and snapper Brett Goode. “I have a lot of confidence in his ability to put the ball through the uprights and that will definitely be the case Sunday.”
Packers injury report
Out: WR Greg Jennings (abdomen); LB Clay Matthews (hamstring); CB Charles Woodson (collarbone). Did not participate: TE Andrew Quarless (knee); RB Johnny White (illness). Limited: WR Donald Driver (thumb); FB John Kuhn (hamstring); LB Terrell Manning (shoulder); DE Mike Neal (ankle); WR Jordy Nelson (hamstring/foot); CB Sam Shields (ankle); TE Ryan Taylor (chest). Full: T T.J. Lang (elbow/wrist); TE D.J. Williams (hamstring); DE Jerel Worthy (concussion).
Quarless went from limited to did not participate after his surgically repaired knee had a not-unexpected setback. Neal went from did not participate to limited.
“I watched him in individual, actually had probably too good of a pass rush there at the end of red zone,” McCarthy said. “See how he responds tomorrow, but I liked what I saw from Mike Neal.”
Lions injury report
Did not participate: S Louis Delmas (knee); S Amari Spievey (concussion); DT Corey Williams (knee). Limited: DE Cliff Avril (back/concussion); S Erik Coleman (eye); K Jason Hanson (left foot); CB Chris Houston (ankle); WR Calvin Johnson (knee); LB Ashlee Palmer (chest); WR Titus Young (knee). Full: None.
Avril, Coleman, Houston and Johnson all were held out on Wednesday. Starting safeties Delmas and Spievey haven’t practiced this week.
-- To get Shields some extra work and to test his injured ankle, he took some scout-team reps at receiver, McCarthy said. When the injury happened at Houston, Shields said he thought “something was broke.” He proclaimed himself “90 percent” healthy and would rather be 100 percent, with so much of his game built on speed. At this point, it would seem Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward would be the starting corners, with Davon House entering in nickel and Jerron McMillian entering in dime.
-- Slocum, on Ryan Taylor’s $21,000 fine for what was ruled a legal block against Arizona: “Here’s our situation: We’ve got a great game here, player safety’s at the forefront now, and we have to play within the rules. We need to do a good job understanding the rules, the league needs to do a good job educating everybody involved. I felt like the block was a good block. This is a physical game played by physical men and it will always be that way. Or, if it changes, it won’t be what the NFL is now. It’s important that we train within the rules and play within the rules and that’s all we can do. We’ll move on, Ryan Taylor will move on and we’ll go play good football.”
-- Offensive line coach James Campen, on losing Bryan Bulaga: “First and foremost, you feel for the player being hurt and how hard he works at his trade and how much it means to him personally more than what he means to the team. It was a tough deal for him, so you feel really bad for him. As far as moving forward, we’ve always had the ability and will continue to have the next man up. We expect that person to do his job and to have no drop-off.”
-- The Packers are 15/2 favorites to win the Super Bowl, a little better than their 8/1 before the bye, according to Bovada. Houston is first at 19/4, followed by New England and Denver at 6/1. Green Bay is tied with San Francisco.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.