DETROIT – Mason Crosby remains the Green Bay Packers’ kicker.
Something could change, obviously, between Sunday afternoon and the start of the practice week on Wednesday, but coach Mike McCarthy defended his kicker in no uncertain terms after the Packers beat the Detroit Lions 24-20.
“Mason’s got to put the ball through the uprights. That’s something that we’ve got to do a better job of,” McCarthy said. “I thought Mason had a very good week of work; didn’t hit it today the way he needs to hit it but we’ll continue with Mason. We will not blink as far as our commitment to him.”
Crosby, coming off a career-best 24-of-28 last season, opened this year by connecting on his first five attempts. It’s all gone haywire since then, though. On Sunday, Crosby missed from 50 and 38 yards, lowering his efficiency to 5-of-12 since his perfect start. Crosby did give the Packers a critical three points in the final moments by converting from 39 yards.
“It’s frustrating,” Crosby said. “I don’t want to miss two in a row, I don’t want to miss any. I’m a competitive guy, I know our job, I know I’m not out there against somebody one-on-one, but my competitive nature wants to make the kicks and help this team win.”
How big is the funk? On the final play before halftime, Crosby missed a 50-yarder just to the right. However, Lions coach Jim Schwartz called timeout. Given the mulligan, Crosby then missed it well to the left.
On the 38-yarder midway through the fourth quarter, Crosby raised his arms as if he expected the ball to split the uprights. Instead, it drifted to the left.
“It’s a day inside where we could’ve gone 3-for-3, should’ve gone 3-for-3,” he said. “But I didn’t, and I hit the last kick there and I have to kind of build off that kick there and move forward.”
Mason Crosby celebrates prematurely as this 38-yarder drifted to the left. Andrew Weber/US Presswire
The Packers have stuck with Crosby through thick and thin. Given the Packers have never brought in a challenger or even a camp leg since Crosby made the team in 2007, there’s little reason to believe general manager Ted Thompson will have a parade of unemployed veterans kicking in the Don Hutson Center on Monday or Tuesday.
After beating out incumbent Dave Rayner as a sixth-round pick in 2007, Crosby converted 79.5 percent as a rookie, 79.4 percent in 2008, 75.0 percent in 2009 and 78.6 percent in 2010. Typically, a middle-of-the-pack kicker converts about 83 percent. This year, 12 full-time kickers are better than 90 percent and another 11 are better than 80 percent.
Given a contract through the 2015 season that included a $3 million signing bonus after the lockout, Crosby had a career year with 85.7 percent accuracy. This year, however, has been a nightmare. The Packers entered the game with the worst conversion rate in the league at 66.7; a figure that’s down to 61.1 percent (11-of-18) after Sunday.
“(McCarthy) encouraged me and everything I’m telling myself, we’re on the same page,” Crosby said. “Obviously, I’ve got to make the field goals. That’s No. 1. Ultimately, I had the opportunity there at the end and had to seal it off and I’m happy about that. Definitely have to fix the line and make sure I’m hitting good balls, it’s frustrating. I really have to dial it in. It’s small things I’ve been doing for a long time, so it’s little things that I really need to look into and make sure I fix.”
During the bye, McCarthy thought back to 2009, when Crosby made 27-of-36 attempts, including a 16-of-23 slump after a strong start.
“I thought that probably the best part about that dip was we supported him,” McCarthy said. “It’s just like anything in life professionally: You have the opportunity to work with an individual every day and you see what they’re about, their mentality, their commitment, their preparation leading up to it. I have no reasons not to believe in him. Now, I can see your pens are all writing and I understand he’s missing kicks in games. The bottom line is this is about performance on Sundays and I have all of the confidence that Mason’s going to get that back because we need him.”
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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.