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For Better or Worse, Crosby is McCarthy's Kicker

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For Better or Worse, Crosby is McCarthy's Kicker

With two swings of his right leg Sunday, Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby hit rock bottom.

Given the recent circumstances, Crosby's mistakes to end the first half and start the second of Green Bay's 23-14 win might represent the lowest point for any Packers kicker since Ryan Longwell missed a chip shot kick in 1997 at Philadelphia that would have won the game.

But those calling for the Packers to make a move at kicker will likely be left waiting the remainder of this season. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy gave Crosby another vote of confidence Monday.

"I'm not changing, I'm not wavering on Mason," McCarthy said. "He needs to make kicks. He needs to make the long kick. I expect him to make that kick before the half. But once again, we're just going to keep swinging. We need Mason to make big kicks down the stretch. He'll be a big part of our success."

Despite acknowledging both of Crosby's mistakes in the context of the game Sunday, McCarthy certainly did not sound like a head coach who is prepared to put his name on a change of kicker over the final four games of the 2012 season. For better or worse, McCarthy is hitching his horse to Crosby.

Luckily for the Packers, the kicking mistakes Sunday did not effect the game's outcome.

Crosby, who came into Sunday missing five of his last nine kicks, pushed a 53-yard attempt before halftime that might have still went wide had the goal posts been moved 10 yards to the right. McCarthy admitted Monday that the missed kick was a deflating moment for his football team as they headed into the half time locker room down four points instead of just one.

Then, to begin the second half, Crosby shanked his kickoff out of bounds and gave Minnesota field position at the 40-yard line. A play later, the Vikings were knocking on the end zone's door after Adrian Peterson rumbled 48-yards.

Crosby did redeem himself, finding the middle of the uprights on two important second-half kicks that helped the Packers swell their lead to two scores.

Optimists will say the two second-half makes could snap Crosby out of his funk. Pessimists can point to a shaky first kick, the two middle mistakes and a hesitation from McCarthy to send Crosby out on what should have been an instant decision.

Crosby clanked a 30-yard kick in the first quarter off the left upright and through. Later, Crosby's pushed kick before the half extended his streak of games with a miss to six and seven of the last eight overall.

Midway through the third quarter and with the Packers still trailing 14-10, Aaron Rodgers threw incomplete on 3rd-and-7 from the Vikings' 30-yard line. Instead of immediately calling on Crosby for a 47-yard kick on 4th-and-7, McCarthy dialed in a call to Rodgers to go for it. The Vikings, confused with their play call and possessing 12 men on the field, called timeout. After the break, McCarthy sent out of Crosby, who sent his kick through from 47 yards out.

McCarthy could have faced some heat in the kicking department had he actually went for the first down and left Crosby on the sidelines. If you can't trust your kicker to make a 47-yard kick in the second half of a 14-10 game at home, you probably need to find yourself a new guy.

Instead, Crosby nailed the kick to pull the Packers to 14-13. His 31-yarder late in the fourth quarter all but sealed the Packers win by putting Green Bay up two scores. Both kicks elicited a roar from the Lambeau Field crowd.

Crosby is now 15 of 24 kicking this season, good for a percentage of 62.5. The nine misses are tied with David Akers for the NFL lead, and only Billy Cundiff—cut by the Redskins in early October—has a worse overall kicking accuracy (7 of 12, 58.3).

Crosby has bounced back from funks before. The most notable span came in 2010, when he suffered through a 9 for 14 phase midway through that season. He then made 13 of his last 15 kicks, including the playoffs. This funk is longer lasting and deeper than the one he dealt with last years ago, however.

Maybe with some renewed confidence from the two second-half kicks Sunday, Crosby can put together another slump-busting finish to this season. McCarthy is certainly hoping so.

Chances are high that a game over the next two months—either in the four to finish the regular season or sometime in the postseason—will come down to a kick.

Predicting the outcome of such a scenario is a fool's errand, but at least we know for absolute certain that Crosby will be the one taking such a kick. For better or worse, Crosby has the unwavering support of his head coach.

Zach Kruse is a 24-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at zachkruse2@gmail.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (16) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Mike's picture

For now, Crosby is the best (if not only) option at kicker. Now, as far as the offseason goes, all bets are off. I expect TT to bring in some form of competition, be it through the draft or UDFA, to push or possibly replace Crosby. He may have snapped out of his slump. But, C'mon Man!, you can't miss THE ENTIRE FIELD on a kickoff!

denniseckersley's picture

I agree, Crosby is staying put. And I think he should. The problem is, however, that even if he breaks out of his slump, he's still just Mason Crosby. He's a guy that is susceptible to slumps and even at his best he's unspectacular. I usually don't give much credence to "the clutch gene" but this guy just doesn't have it. I know he's had shockingly few opportunities to kick game-winning and gametying, but I think the only ones he's ever hit were in his first game and then again in NY last year?

He's missed a lot of tough but makeable kicks in crucial spots over the course of his career that other kickers (Gould, Bryant, Bironas, etc.) make regularly.

2008 - He missed the kick as time expired trailing Minnesota 28-27

2008 - Blocked in OT in Chicago

2010 - Missed a 53 yarder at the end of regulation in that debacle against Washington when we lost in OT.

2012 - Knuckled wide in Indy with a chance to tie the game

These were all 50-55 yards so no gimme by any means, but he has more than enough leg to bury them from that distance. He's not the worst kicker, but he's terribly overpaid for his production.

Lou's picture

Denniseckersley had the history correct, Crosby cannot be counted on under pressure. The best approach is to bring in Longwell, keep McCarthy's adopted son Crosby on the roster and when the pressure kick comes trot out Longwell. Forget Jennings trying to cheer up Crosby on the sidelines a week ago, when he misses the big one the locker room will turn on him in a New York minute.

Bomdad's picture

Revisionist history at its best here. At his best, Crosby set the franchise record for consecutive FGs, something no other kicker did. And this is at the same time the red zone efficiency of the offense is at the top of the league (not a lot of chip shots the other losers get to pad their stats...yes those kickers play on losing teams or futile red zone offenses).

If you watch other games, you'll see alot of misses at the end of games and overtime this year from all the "good kickers". Thanksgiving Day was a great example of misses in domed stadiums when the game was on the line. Walsh missed his kick Sunday to keep the Vikes in contention for the playoffs you could even say.

Not to mention, he's kicking in a home stadium where they have ongoing construction that changes the wind pattern game to game.

I'll stick with Mason this season.

imma fubared's picture

All this is kind of moot if MM has already checked out, and you know he has, if any other kickers are available to try out.
My guess is there is no one else so he is stuck in quicksand: can't move and is slowly sinking with no Tarzan around to save him right now.

Nerdmann's picture

Crosby deserves the chance to get it together.

Remember in 2010 when they were messing with his holder? He was missing kicks. Did he come out and blame the holder, like Ryan Longwell? NO. He took it like a man and righted the ship.

Does Crosby complain about the inordinate amount of 50+ yard FGs he is required to attempt? That would bring ANY kicker's % down. NO, he does not.

Does Crosby complain about kicking off the Tundra? Does he pull a Ryan Longwell and go running to a dome at the first opportunity? NO.

Crosby is a kicker with a strong leg. He can boot it out of the end zone when he needs to. He is also good with the pooch kicks and the onside kicks. He's not afraid to make a tackle when he needs to.

When it comes to standing up and taking one for the team, Crosby has ALWAYS done so. Without complaint.

Is Crosby clutch? Not particularly so. Never has been.

But he's willing to stand up and be a man. He's willing to show loyalty toward the team. He ALWAYS puts the team first. He doesn't talk smack and he puts the responsibility on himself. Nor does he demand Sebatian Janikowski money.

So now when HE's struggling, he deserves a chance to get it together. He's a character guy. Not a lot of kickers have that.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

I don't give a shnit if he complains or not, he's a kicker, nobody cares. He just needs to hit at an 80% clip, and then go get the football players on the team some water.

Nerd's Laptop's picture

No kicker in the league is going to hit 80% off the Tundra.

Especially with the % of kicks from 50+.

The Packers are an unusually good Red Zone team. Crosby doesn't get many short attempts.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

I'm not cutting him any slack because of where he kicks. I'd think Soldier Field with its winds would present just as big if not bigger issues for a kicker... Gould is well over 80% for his career. Mason isn't getting a pass from me.

Nerdmann's picture

How are the Bears in the Red Zone?

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Snore...

bryce's picture

1. There aren't really any better options out there at kicker right now. They might give Chris Jacke a call for a tryout, but I doubt he has Crosby's distance on kickoffs.

2. Part of this is McCarthy's fault. I contend that him trotting Mason out there for 55+ yard kicks has been at least part of the reason that Crosby has turned into shankosaurus rex this season. If he kept the attempts under 50 yards here for awhile, that would right the ship for sure.

Nerd's Laptop's picture

It started on Family Night when they had him attempting those 60 yarders.

Bomdad's picture

he's missed less from inside 40 than Matt Bryant who is sort of standard bearer apparently. and attempted more from beyond 50 than anyone.

Barutan Seijin's picture

Not buying the "Crosby has it tougher" argument. That's just homerism. If it's impossible to kick over 80% on the tundra, how did Crosby hit 85.7% last year? Global warming?

As for the "McCarthy makes him try long kicks", well yes, that's true. But take a look at his percentages by distance compared to a genuinely good cold weather kicker:

Robbie Gould:

11 for 14 @ 50+
52 for 73 @ 40-49 yds
66 for 73 @ 30-39 yds
54 for 54 @ 20-29 yds
1 for 1 @ 0-19 yds

Crosby:

11 for 25 @ 50+
30 for 41 @ 40-49 yds
43 for 50 @ 30-39 yds
31 for 33 @ 20-29 yds
4 for 4 @ 0-19 yds

Summary: Crosby is less accurate from any distance beyond 20 yds.

To his credit, Crosby is usually good at getting touchbacks, but this year Gould has 38 to Crosby's 30. (Gould also outdid him 16-4 in 2010. They were kicking from the 30 then, but Crosby had hit 12 touchbacks in 2009. So something was going on. Maybe this year, too.)

The bottom line is that the guy's hitting only 63% this year. That's 1970s kicking. Awful. Wretched. Pathetic. He's totally replacable but he has that 5 year deal. Pretty sure that's the sticking point for Packer management.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Nerd? Neeerd, where are yoooou???

Nice work Barutan.

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