CHICAGO – Write it down: Mason Crosby is here to stay.
That’s what Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said when asked Sunday about his kicker’s future in Green Bay. He left no room for interpretation.
“We're going to go into work tomorrow and we're going to watch the tape and he's going to get down there and we're going to swing at it,” McCarthy said. “We're not changing our kicker, so you can write that down right now. He's our guy.”
McCarthy’s latest vote of confidence for Crosby came after Crosby missed a pair of field goals in Sunday’s 21-13 victory over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Crosby missed a 43-yard field goal with 11 minutes 22 remaining in the first half, then missed another from 42 yards out with 10:10 left in the fourth quarter.
But despite McCarthy’s support of his kicker, he did acknowledge that time is running out for Crosby to consistently convert his field goal attempts.
“Mason needs to make those kicks,” McCarthy said. “We’re at that time of year – we left points on the field today and the two missed field goals are definitely makeable field goals. Obviously, it factors into some of the decisions you make after that. It’s time for him to step up.”
On Sunday, it looked like McCarthy had already been forced to make some of those decisions. Three times in the game against the Bears, McCarthy declined to attempt a field goal in Crosby’s usual range.
One of those times came on fourth-and-6 with 9:44 left in the third quarter. After fullback John Kuhn was unable to convert a third-and-7, McCarthy elected to leave quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Packers’ offense in the game. The decision paid off – Rodgers completed a 12-yard throw to wide receiver Randall Cobb – and two plays later found wide receiver James Jones in the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown reception that put the Packers up by 14. Crosby said he didn’t question the decision.
“No, coach makes a pretty quick decision,” said Crosby, who has now missed a field goal in eight straight games and is 17 for 29 on the season. “We wanted to get a two-touchdown lead. That’s just part of the game.
“It was a situation where we wanted to get some momentum right there right after half. We came in, we talked about it, we wanted a touchdown right after half. And that’s what we did. That’s just part of the game, a call that Coach McCarthy is going to make on occasion and it worked out."
It worked out on Sunday – when the rest of the team made up for Crosby’s two misses by scoring three unanswered touchdowns and holding the Bears to 13 points – because, as Crosby pointed out, football is a team sport.
“Obviously I want to make them but this team keeps fighting, so the fact that we won is all that matters today,” Crosby said. “For me I have to go and evaluate – but I want to go and enjoy this with my team. To make sure that I know that we won the division and I have done some great things and this year is not over. Not even close to over.”
But in a closer game – especially in the playoffs – if Crosby misses, there may not be time for his team to pick him up, and the Packers’ season may well be over. Before Sunday, seven of Crosby’s 10 misses had come from 50 yards and beyond. The fact that he missed twice from the mid-40s – even with Soldier Field’s legendarily bad turf – was troubling.
“We're at that time of year,” McCarthy said. “We've been taking the long 50-yard opportunities preparing him to make the game-winner. So I have all the confidence when we line up at home in Lambeau that we're going to go out there and we're going to have our spot and we're going to have a field-position plan and we're going to line up and kick it when that opportunity comes. He has to do his part.”
Crosby knows he needs to do his part -- and he knows he can. He also knows the only way he can focus on doing so is by forgetting about the field goals he has missed thus far, just like he does every kick he takes.
“I erase every kick after it’s done,” Crosby said. “I have to be excited that we won this. I have to be excited that we won the North division. We’re going to the playoffs and everything that we want to do is in front of us. I can’t sit and sulk and think about missed kicks because I’ve got to make kicks. We’re going to get to the playoffs and there’s going to be some big ones down the line here.”
Sarah Barshop covers the Packers for ESPNWisconsin.com. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/sarahbarshop.