Mason Crosby proud of how he battled in 2018

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GREEN BAY – Mason Crosby nearly dropped to his knees after his extra-point try hit the left upright inside Ford Field on Oct. 7, 2018.

It was the exclamation point on a nightmare afternoon for the Packers’ veteran kicker, in which Crosby also missed field-goal attempts from 41, 42, 38 and 56 yards.

Afterwards, the Packers’ all-time leading scorer stood in front of a large group of media inside Ford Field’s compact visitors’ locker room and expressed regret about how his day unfolded.

“It was one of those days that just wasn’t there,” Crosby said. “I’ve done this a long time, and I’ve never had a day where it wasn’t there like that. We’ll look at it, look at every facet of it and flush it and hopefully move on.”

The game could have been Crosby’s undoing, but as he’s done so many times during his 12-year NFL career, the veteran picked himself up and put his best kicking foot forward.

After a vote of confidence from Aaron Rodgers and the rest of Green Bay’s locker room, Crosby responded the next week by making all seven of his kicks, including a game-winning 27-yard field goal as time expired in the Packers’ 33-30 comeback victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

Along with making 26 consecutive extra points after the Detroit game, Crosby converted 19 of his final 21 field-goal attempts to claw his way back above 80 percent on his season total (30-of-37, 81.8 percent).

While there was one blip on the radar – a 49-yard miss at the final whistle against Arizona in Week 13 – Crosby was one of eight kickers with at least 20 attempts to convert at least 90 percent of his tries over the final 12 weeks of the 2018 season.

“I battled this year,” Crosby said. “After that Detroit game, it was a long haul; to only miss two kicks down the stretch was important. If I eliminate that game, I have a heck of a year, statistically. I had to write it off as that and look at this year as a whole.”

Crosby has had to deal with a shifting tide with Green Bay’s specialists over the past three seasons. After going six consecutive seasons with the same long snapper (Brett Goode) and holder (Tim Masthay), Crosby has played with five long snappers and had three different holders since the 2016 playoffs.

The Packers made a move to solidify those two spots last spring, drafting Alabama punter JK Scott in the fifth round and taking Mississippi State long snapper Hunter Bradley in the seventh.

“I’ve worked really hard at it,” Crosby said. “These past two years, there’s been a lot of moving parts and a lot of changes in my unit and the operational side of things. I think I’ve done a great job of diving into what are my controllables and making sure I focus in on those.”

Having stability at kicker has behooved the Packers, especially with how many critical late-December and January games have been decided on last-second field goals in recent years.

Near the end of the season, Rodgers praised Crosby and longtime Chicago kicker Robbie Gould for their consistency in handling two of the NFL’s trickiest kicking environments.

Crosby, who entered the league as a sixth-round pick in 2007, has enjoyed one of the league’s longest runs with a single team. Only New England’s Stephen Gostkowski and Indianapolis’ Adam Vinatieri have remained with one team longer.

While the Packers hope to have found a long-term answer with their specialists, Crosby must adjust to a more significant change this offseason, with Shawn Mennenga now replacing Ron Zook as Green Bay’s special teams coordinator.

Despite the uncertainty facing the unit, Crosby said last month he planned to attack the offseason with the same mentality he always does.

“That’s what it is,” Crosby said. “We’re just going to have to kind of ride that wave and see how everything unfolds and what decisions are made. I’ll take a breath and evaluate the season, like I do every year, and make sure that I’m prepared for what this offseason holds.”

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