GREEN BAY, Wis. – Mason Crosby knows what you’re thinking.
“If it wasn’t my job and I wasn’t in the middle of it, you’d almost kind of be like, ‘Man, just everything that could’ve gone wrong in a few of these situations kind of did.’”
The Packers’ veteran kicker has gone from unimaginably hot to unthinkably cold in the span of one road trip to Cincinnati.
On Oct. 7, 2018, exactly three years and three days before that rollercoaster of a day against the Bengals, Crosby infamously missed four field-goal attempts at Detroit. Ultimately, it would be a mere footnote to his career. Crosby kicked that bad day to the curb and made 61 of his next 65 attempts – including a perfect 16-of-16 last season. His 93.1 percent success rate during that span was eclipsed only by Josh Lambo, who made 95.0 percent of his kicks in warm and cozy Jacksonville.
Crosby continued with an autopilot-style start to this season in which he made his first nine field goals, including a 51-yarder that beat San Francisco. But it’s all gone off the rails. After making his first three field goals at Cincinnati on Oct. 10, he missed his next three before ending a day of kicking chaos by booting the game-winner. Two weeks later, he had one blocked vs. Washington. Two weeks after that, he missed one and had another blocked at Kansas City.
When his chip-shot field goal squirted to the right against Seattle on Sunday, it marked his seventh miss in 11 attempts. It’s the worst stretch of his career. In 2012, when he made a career- and league-worst 63.6 percent of his attempts, he went through a span in which he went 5-of-12 on field goals.
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Crosby’s view of the outside perspective is right on the mark. There have been off-target snaps, bad holds, leaky production and wayward kicks. And a lot of change has played a role in the mess. The team broke up the three-year battery of long snapper Hunter Bradley and punter/holder JK Scott at the end of training camp by acquiring punter Corey Bojorquez. Bojorquez could hardly be better as a punter – he’s No. 1 in the league in net average – but he hasn’t been reliable as a holder. Then, a few weeks ago, the team dumped Bradley and promoted Steven Wirtel from the practice squad.
“It’s time and relationship and the time that we have to work on things,” Crosby said. “Corey came in, we got off to a hot start we started having some operational issues and we kind of fell into a tough spot, but Corey is working really hard. He’s detailed in his work throughout the week and, ultimately, it begins and ends with me with how that unit goes. So, I’ve got to make sure that my timing and my work is on point and demanding it across the board that, every time we go out there, we’re executing at a high level. That’s my role as a leader, as the kicker on this team and, as long as I’m able to kick a ball and do this thing, I’m going to always take ultimate responsibility for what happens out there on the field.”
After the opening miss against Seattle, Crosby made his second field-goal attempt and both extra points. On all three, the snap, hold and protection were good, and Crosby split the posts.
That was a positive and a potential building block. Crosby said it was a good week of work headed into Sunday’s game at the Minnesota Vikings.
In 2012, Crosby’s 5-of-12 slump grew into a 12-of-24 rut. But he rebounded to make his final four attempts in the regular season and both tries in the playoffs.
Crosby knows the standard and the expectation. The Packers are 8-2 and Super Bowl contenders. But they haven’t been dominant and there’s not a large margin for error given the injuries and the offense’s struggles. With the game on the line, the blocking must be leak-proof, Wirtel and Bojorquez must perform like veterans and Crosby must return to Mr. Reliable status.
“We have to be good. We have to be right. We have to be automatic every time we take the field,” Crosby said. “That is what it needs to be, and that is the expectation. So, we’re not looking at, ‘Oh, we’ve got to work, it takes time,’ all these things. I’m never going to make an excuse there. We’re working through it, we’re working on it now. We will be good, and we will get it right because this team deserves that. We have something special here, and we have to make sure we execute at a high level.”