Right or wrong: McCarthy stands by struggling kicker Crosby
By Pete Dougherty, Green Bay Press-Gazette
~The Green Bay Packers are facing an unexpected midseason crisis at kicker.
Mason Crosby, who appeared to be hitting the peak of his powers coming into his sixth NFL season, had another in a tough stretch of games Sunday. In the Packers’ 24-20 win over Detroit on Sunday, Crosby missed two key field goals — three counting the first of two 50-yard misses, which was nullified when the Detroit Lions called a timeout to ice him at the end of the first half.
Crosby has made only six of his last 13 official attempts, though he did hit an important 39-yarder with 19 seconds left that gave the Packers a four-point lead.
The misses were such an obvious issue that coach Mike McCarthy addressed them at the end of his opening statement to reporters after the game.
“I’ll address the field goal situation,” McCarthy said. “Mason’s got to put the ball through the uprights. That’s something that we’ve got to do a better job of. 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.”
The 28-year-old Crosby had so won over the Packers’ coaching and scouting staffs in his first four seasons that after last year’s NFL lockout, the team signed him to a five-year contract that included a $3 million signing bonus and averages $2.95 million a season. Then he had his best season in the NFL and made 85.7 percent of his field-goal attempts.
But McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson have to be deeply concerned with his erratic kicking of late and the Packers starting the home stretch of the season.
In such circumstances, many teams bring in kickers for workouts, and others even will make a midseason change, depending on their history with the kicker and who’s available on the street.
There’s at least one accomplished kicker available in Nate Kaeding, who was released by San Diego off injured reserve in late October. Kaeding had a groin injury but said at the time of his release he was ready to play. The 30-year-old has made an outstanding 87.0 percent of his career field goal attempts, but he was only 8-for-15 in eight playoff games, including three misses in a 17-14 loss to the New York Jets in 2010 and a 40-yarder that would have won the game against the Jets in 2004.
Kaeding missed last season because of knee-reconstruction surgery.
McCarthy, though, was firm in his support for Crosby, who went through a rough stretch in 2009 in which he missed six of 16 field goals late in the year.
“I thought that probably the best part about that dip (in ’09) 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.”
On Crosby’s misses on two 50-yarders, the first was wide right, though it didn’t count because of the timeout, and the second was wide left. The Packers trailed 10-7 at the time.
The 38-yarder, which was in the fourth quarter with the Packers up 14-13, started out just inside the left upright and hooked wide.
When asked what he thinks is going wrong, Crosby said: “I don’t know, each year is different. I have to kind of work through it, I guess. Last year I started off really hot and ended up with a great percentage. Have to keep making kicks, grind through the weeks and focus on hitting the ball and putting it on line and giving myself the opportunity to put it through the uprights. That’s my job and what I intend to do.”
After Crosby missed the 38-yarder, McCarthy approached his kicker for a quick conversation. From a distance it looked like the coach was getting on his kicker, but Crosby said McCarthy’s main message was to move on.
“It was anything but rough, no,” Crosby said. “He expects me to make the kick, I expect it. That was pretty much the gist of that conversation, ‘You have to make that kick, you’re going to have another opportunity.’ For me it was him reaffirming what I was already saying, I have to move on and get ready for another opportunity to kick, because our team was battling.”
When Crosby made the 39-yarder with 19 seconds left, he wore none of the smiles that usually go with a made kick. Instead he accepted his teammates’ congratulations with a stern face.
“I’m upset in a game where I felt good in warm-ups,” he said. “Struck the ball well (in the game), just offline a little bit. It was a game (in a dome) we could have gone 3-for-3, should have gone 3-for-3, but I didn’t. I hit the last kick there, have to kind of build off that and move forward.”
McCarthy also made a couple of curious decisions on field-goal attempts, one that might suggest a lack of confidence in Crosby, another that showed extreme confidence.
On a fourth-and-4 from Detroit’s 31 in the first quarter, McCarthy went for the first down rather than try a 49-yard field goal. Then early in the fourth quarter, trailing 17-14, he had Crosby line up for a 58-yard attempt that if he missed would have given the Lions great field position at their 48.
The kick didn’t come off because tight end Tom Crabtree was called for illegal motion — the Packers motioned him from the wing to the middle of the formation to simulate a fake they’d run successfully earlier in the season against Chicago in hopes they could draw Detroit offside and get a first down. Crabtree was set to motion in and then return to his spot as the outside blocker on the left side, but the 5-yard penalty took the Packers out of field-goal range.
Crosby said he was going to try the 58-yarder if not for the penalty.
“(The officials) said (Crabtree) simulated a play, that was ………. Full story HERE