Packers Survive Special Teams
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Packers Survive Special Teams

From bad field-goal kicking by Mason Crosby to a bad gamble by coach Mike McCarthy to bad coverage and bad returns, Green Bay's special teams were dominated by the Bears' units.

CHICAGO – On a board inside the Green Bay Packers locker room hangs a chart with a list of about 12 special-teams goals, with things ranging from 100 percent ball security to explosive returns to better net punting average.

Last week against Detroit, the Packers hit on every goal.

On Sunday against the Bears, the Packers saw their outstanding special-teams units outplayed in just about every fashion.

The major problem, as has been the case for most of the season, was kicker Mason Crosby. Crosby's struggles have been well-documented, but he entered Sunday having made seven in a row from inside of 50 yards.

Sunday, however, was a major step back, a fact amplified when Olindo Mare, who the Bears signed on Tuesday as the injury replacement for Robbie Gould, made both of his attempts after being out of the league all season.

Early in the second quarter, Crosby missed badly from 43 yards, the kick starting right and only moving further outside the upright. In the fourth quarter, with a chance to extend the lead to 24-10, Crosby's 42-yarder plunked the left upright. In between, coach Mike McCarthy went for it on fourth-and-6 rather than attempt a 44-yard field goal.

Despite those struggles directly impacting McCarthy's strategy, Crosby will be the kicker when Green Bay hosts Tennessee next week, barring a major change of heart.

"We're going to go into work tomorrow and we're going to watch the tape and he's going to get down there and we're going to swing at it," McCarthy said. "We're not changing our kicker, so you can write that down right now. He's our guy. He needs to make those kicks. He knows that. We're at that time of year. We've been taking the long 50-yard opportunities preparing him to make the game-winner. So, I have all the confidence when we line up at home in Lambeau that we're going to go out there and we're going to have our spot and we're going to have a field-position plan and we're going to line up and kick it when that opportunity comes. He has to do his part." While Crosby's season-long rate of 17-for-27 (63 percent) was the worst in the league, he was a satisfactory 16-of-19 from inside of 50 before the game.

"I have been doing this for a long time," Crosby said. "I draw on a lot of positive things I've done. I've done a lot of positive things this year. Some missed kicks don't define me and don't change who I am or what I do. For me, I look at the positives, look at the things I've done well and just try to do those."

McCarthy said a doomed trick play on a fourth-quarter punt return was "not the highlight of my coaching career." With Green Bay leading 21-10 midway through the fourth quarter, Randall Cobb fielded a punt and threw a lateral to fellow receiver Jeremy Ross. Ross failed to make the catch and then appeared slow to react to the loose ball, with Anthony Walters recovering at Green Bay's 16. The play would have been ruined, anyway, with Jarrett Bush flagged for holding, but the play was set up and Ross had a chance for a big play.

Regardless, the Packers had the game in hand, especially with their defense playing at a high level. It was almost as if the Packers were trying to add insult to injury by scoring the clinching touchdown against Chicago's special teams, which annually are considered the best - or among the best - units in the league. The Packers took great delight in scoring a touchdown against Chicago in Week 2 on a fake field goal.

"Really, the reason behind the fake punt was Aaron (Rodgers) had just come off with an ankle and we had a couple injuries on the sideline and guys getting ready for the next series," McCarthy said. "I felt that the potential for the big play on special teams was there. It's a play we've been working on. You look for a certain part of the field, the wind, all the factors involved and that's what it equated to. Now, in the end, it's not a good decision. Wish I had that back."

Little else went right on special teams, including two penalties on Bush. Green Bay lost net punting by 7 yards per punt, with Devin Hester taking back three punts for a 14.0-yard average. The Packers lost the field position after kickoffs by 5 yards per kick, with Hester's 40-yard return beating Cobb's two-return total of 37.


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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.