Crosby Makes Strong Recovery

Kickers never know when their opportunities to shine are going to come. So when you wait 14 months to the day for an opportunity to be the hero, and you don’t come through, how long does it take to get over it? Truth be told, Mason Crosby was over the last-second miss at Minnesota the moment he walked onto the practice field last Wednesday to get ready to play the Chicago Bears.


Kickers never know when their opportunities to shine are going to come.

Mason Crosby got his first right away, in the opening game of his rookie season, when he was called upon to make a 42-yard field goal in the closing seconds to beat Philadelphia. But then it took a season-and-a-half, until Week 10 of this year, before his next game-winning chance, and he pushed a well-struck, 52-yarder just right in a one-point loss at Minnesota.

So when you wait 14 months to the day for another opportunity to be the hero, and you don't come through, how long does it take to get over it? Logic would dictate that when Crosby drilled a 53-yarder through Lambeau Field's swirling south end zone winds to close out the first half last week against Chicago, the Minnesota game was officially behind him.

But truth be told, Crosby was over the last-second miss the moment he walked onto the practice field last Wednesday to get ready to play the Bears. Not only because he needed to be, but because that's how he operates.

He didn't need another big kick on gameday to validate his abilities and reassure himself. Just a couple of brief, encouraging chats with his wife and special teams coach Mike Stock, and it was time to move on.

"It was an unfortunate situation -- I didn't make the kick -- so I just had to put it past me and I had to make sure that I came into the Chicago game ready to go," Crosby said. "I couldn't have that dwelling in my head.

"It's not like I hit a horrible ball in that Minnesota game, it just kind of went right on me. I don't want to change up much I don't want to start thinking that I'm not doing things right. I just made sure I went back to practice on Wednesday last week and kept hitting the ball the same way, just making kicks. I was happy to have a good game against Chicago and I have to keep rolling now."

His game against Chicago was as strong a bounce-back performance as any kicker could ask for, save for an all-redeeming crack at another game-winner.

First, he tied his career-long with the 53-yarder just before halftime, and he made it with an impressive 10-12 yards to spare.

"That kick was a very tough kick, because that's at the worst end of the stadium in terms of where the wind gusts at the uprights," Stock said. "It comes across there really heavy at times. That kick was huge. He nailed it, dead on."

He also was good from 33 and 45 yards away in the second half, giving him his first game this season (after three as a rookie) in which he made two field goals of at least 45 yards in the same contest. And he hit two of eight kickoffs into the end zone and dropped four others on the 5-yard line or better.

That type of performance on a brisk, late-fall day with a temperature of 33 degrees, winds at 15 miles per hour, and a wind chill of 23, hopefully foretells a strong finish for Crosby as the elements become more challenging.

The Packers have four cold-weather games remaining - three at home and one at Chicago - in their last six contests as they fight for the NFC North Division title.

"It wasn't as cold as it obviously will get, so it was kind of a good transition game," Crosby said. "It was nice getting out in the cold and starting to get a feel for that. I just have to stay loose and make sure I'm swinging and hitting the ball just right, because as it gets colder that sweet spot on that ball gets a little smaller."

Statistically, Crosby is on pace to improve on some of the impressive numbers from his rookie season. It may be tough for him to match his league-leading 141 points from a year ago, with 88 thus far and six games left, but he has made 19-of-23 field goals, or 82.6 percent, slightly better than last year's 79.5 percent conversion rate (31-of-39).

He also has 12 touchbacks already, just two short of last year's total. Though the late-season outdoor games will make it tough to routinely hit touchbacks down the stretch, Monday night's game at the Louisiana Superdome and a December road game in Jacksonville, Fla., should provide optimal conditions for long kickoffs.

{sportsad300}"I can't force those," Crosby said, well aware that five of his 12 touchbacks have come in the Packers' two dome games this season, at Detroit and Minnesota. "I just want to make sure I make good contact and keep getting that ball deep and in the right position. Our coverage units are doing awesome so that helps a ton."

It also helps the Packers to have a kicker who, despite playing just his second pro season, is as mentally tough and psychologically straight as a seasoned veteran who has made and missed dozens, if not hundreds, more pressure-packed kicks.

Will it be another season-and-a-half before another game-winning try? No one knows, least of all Crosby.

"I'm not concerned when the next one comes," he said. "I'm just mentally preparing and focusing for whenever it comes. It could come Monday night, and I'll be ready for that."

That level-headedness already is serving him well, and the last two weeks are the best evidence.

"That's why he's going to be around," Stock said. "That's why he's going to be around a long time."

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