GREEN BAY – Chances are, Sunday’s game between the undefeated Green Bay Packers and winless St. Louis Rams won’t come down to Packers kicker Mason Crosby’s right foot.
But if it somehow does, Crosby is in the best groove of his NFL career and finds himself on the cusp of the team record for consecutive made field goals.
Crosby made all four of his field-goal attempts, including a 56-yarder that tied his own franchise record, in the Packers’ 25-14 win at Atlanta, and he enters Sunday’s game having made all nine of his attempts this season and 16 straight regular-season field-goal attempts dating back to last season. Chris Jacke holds the team record with a 17-kick streak in 1993, and Crosby’s streak is the third-longest active streak in the NFL, behind Atlanta’s Matt Bryant (23) and Detroit’s Jason Hanson (21).
Crosby, who made three of four field-goal attempts during the Packers' postseason run to the Super Bowl XLV title last year, is also capitalizing on the NFL’s new kickoff rule by hitting 32 of his 35 kickoffs into the end zone, with 17 going for touchbacks.
“I think he’s kicked as well as he ever has in his time here,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I talked to him the other day (about), maybe he’ll have some opportunities to kick some field goals in Lambeau.”
All nine of Crosby’s field goals this year have come on the road, and with the Packers’ high-scoring offense – Green Bay leads the NFL in scoring at 34.6 points per game – Crosby realizes there’s an element of disappointment when he comes onto the field these days.
“This year, it seems like we’re just scoring touchdowns every time we step out here on our field,” Crosby said Thursday. “I know Coach McCarthy loves scoring points, and he likes putting the ball in the end zone. Sometimes it’s like (a disappointment of), ‘OK, let’s get some points,’ where you can tell he definitely wants to score a touchdown. And that’s why I’ve got to go out there and put that ball through the uprights so at least we’re getting some points.”
That’s what Crosby did in Atlanta, where the 56-yarder cut the Falcons’ lead to 14-9 with 5 minutes left in the third quarter and gave the Packers a lift after starting the game in a 14-0 hole. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after the game that Crosby’s kick was “the spark” the team needed.
“(That game) was perhaps the best game he’s had in his career,” special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. “He’s very much in sync right now, hitting the ball very well.”
Crosby credits his success to having punter Tim Masthay as his holder and Brett Goode as his long-snapper for the second straight season. Since joining the Packers as a sixth-round pick from Colorado in 2007, Crosby has never had the same holder-snapper combination in back-to-back seasons. Twice he’s changed holders during the season.
While Goode has been the snapper since 2008, taking over for Rob Davis, Crosby had Jon Ryan as his holder in ’07, Derrick Frost and Matt Flynn as his holders in ’08 and Flynn and Jeremy Kapinos in ’09.
“I feel really confident with the operation, with the protection,” Crosby said. “Having that consistency with the same guys that I had the whole year last year and finished strong with, to be able to come back and start the season with that really helps. That makes a huge difference. I have to trust them completely, and whenever you’re switching guys in and out of those positions, sometimes the timing (is an issue). It’s pretty much automatic right now.”
Said Masthay: “He’s the one that gets it done. We’re a much smaller part of the equation.”
Crosby, who earned his third career NFC special teams player of the week award for his performance against the Falcons, has had only four potential game-winning kicks in the final 2 minutes of regulation or overtime during his five-year NFL career. He drilled a 42-yard field goal with 2 seconds left to beat the Philadelphia Eagles in his NFL debut on Sept. 9, 2007, but he missed the other three.
At Minnesota on Nov. 9, 2008, Crosby made 47- and 40-yarders earlier in the game but, with the Packers trailing 28-27, his 52-yard FG attempt sailed wide right with 26 seconds remaining and the Packers lost. In Chicago on Dec. 22, 2008 Crosby’s 38-yard field goal was blocked with 25 seconds left and the game tied at 17-17. The teams went to overtime, with the Bears winning the coin toss and driving for Robbie Gould’s 38-yard game-winner.
Crosby’s most recent chance was just over a year ago, on Oct. 10, 2010. With 7 seconds left in regulation and the game tied at 13-13, Crosby hit the left upright on a 53-yarder at Washington. The Redskins’ Graham Gano then won the game in OT with a 33-yarder.
Crosby, who drilled a 50-yard field goal as time expired to win the Packers’ Aug. 26 preseason game at Indianapolis, said he’d love another opportunity with the game on the line but isn’t consumed by it.
“Obviously as a kicker that’s something I want to do, because it’s good for us to hit those game-winners,” Crosby said. “I don’t discount any kick. In the NFL, games come down to three points all the time. It doesn’t matter if those three points are in the first quarter or at the end of the game. Things are tight. Every kick matters.
“(But) when you kick that one at the end, you get a little special feeling from that. It’s different. But I wouldn’t mind kicking four field goals and winning by 20 points. That’s not a bad day either.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today,” and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.