The game between the undefeated Green Bay Packers and winless St. Louis Rams on Sunday might not come down to the right foot of Packers kicker Mason Crosby.
If it does, Crosby is in the best groove of his NFL career and finds himself on the cusp of a team record.
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 last weekend. He enters Sunday’s game having made all nine of his attempts this season and 16 straight regular-season field-goal attempts dating 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 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,” coach Mike McCarthy said.
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.
“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. ... 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 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.
The most recent chance came last Oct. 10, against Washington with 7 seconds left in regulation and the game tied at 13-13. Crosby hit the left upright on a 53-yarder and the Redskins’ Graham Gano then won the game in OT with a 33-yarder.
Crosby said he’d love another opportunity with the game on the line but isn’t consumed by it.
“In the NFL, games come down to three points all the time,” he said. “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.”