Tim Masthay didn’t deflect Mason Crosby’s game-winning field-goal attempt on Sunday.
Not that Masthay didn’t check the video to be sure.
“We heard this rumor, and it caught me off-guard because I didn’t see it or feel it,” Masthay, who holds on kicks, said on Monday, a day after Crosby’s knuckleball got nowhere near the goal posts in the Green Bay Packers’ shocking 18-16 loss to the Detroit Lions. “I just wanted to clarify it by getting a close-up on the video. But, no, it doesn’t appear to touch my hand.”
After the kick, Masthay’s head immediately focused on the flight of the ball. He never looked at his hand, which would have been the natural reaction if it got hit by a football. And for Masthay’s hand to deflect the kick, he would have had to take it away from the ball by going straight forward and in the line of the ball rather than moving it up and back. Try it yourself and see how unnatural that feels.
“That’s the way every hold I ever do is,” he said. “It’s always a close, quick thing. But we all looked at, talked about it.”
Masthay understands the fan reaction to the close-up shown by Fox. The kick was so ugly that it’s only natural to wonder what happened to the normally reliable Crosby.
“It’s a reasonable thing to ask because it was an unusual ball flight,” he said. “But, no, it doesn’t appear to have touched or glanced my finger or anything. Mason and I work together as a unit, and it’s not like anybody’s pointing fingers in this locker room or anything like that. But we wanted to check it out because it’s something that has to be addressed if it had happened, but it doesn’t appear like that.”
In reality, it appears Crosby’s plant foot slid about an inch to the right as he went to kick the ball. Special teams coordinator Ron Zook, however, saw something else. He thought Crosby's approach brought him "too tight" to the ball.
"It didn’t hit Tim’s hand," he said. "The way it came off his foot, he was a little high on the ball and his toe hit the ground and that bounced up a little bit. Mason’s so good and so consistent that we kind of take for granted that the snap, the hold and his kick, it’s all got to be pretty precise. A half an inch here or a half an inch there makes a big difference."
The missed field goal culminated the first poor day of the season for Zook's special teams. Detroit's Ameer Abdullah returned the second-half kickoff 104 yards to set up Detroit's first touchdown and the Lions won the net-punting battle by 4.4 yards per kick.
"I’ve responded to (praise for his unit) numerous times. ‘Hey, we’re one play away. We’re one play away,’" Zook said. "You’re always one step away from that. I think the biggest thing, and occasionally these things happen, but the one thing that I got after them about is we’d only had one other kickoff return – the one in Kansas City – that had any significance. Every other kick we’ve covered, we’ve done pretty good. What happened – and you talk about it and you talk about it and you talk about it – is they get the (mentality) of, ‘Mason’s going to kick it deep. They’re not going to bring it out.’ I talked about it all week that this team will bring it out. They’ll bring it out from 9 yards deep or 10 yards deep. They were running hard, they weren’t loafing or anything like that, but there’s a difference. They’re supposed to be at a certain spot on the field in a certain amount of time. Mason, the kick wasn’t where I wanted it to be but it had enough hang time that we should have been 2 or 3 yards closer to it and that would have solved a lot of the problems. It’s a hard thing to learn. With young guys, sometimes it’s growing pains."
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.