GREEN BAY, Wis. — Perhaps it’s just a slump. Maybe his mechanics have been thrown off. But whatever the reason, Packers kicker Mason Crosby knows he can’t be missing 32-yard field goals like he did last weekend.
That miss in Green Bay’s win over the Jacksonville Jaguars was Crosby’s fourth already this season, dropping his success rate to 69.2 percent. His three other misfires were all from 50-plus yards, and that’s relatively understandable given the longer distance. Anything from as close as 32 yards, though, Crosby needs to add three points for the Packers every time.
“Those short ones, I obviously hate when they happen,” Crosby said Thursday at his locker. “This year, I’ve got to take the mindset that I had four kicks that have kind of gotten away from me. All the rest, the kickoffs, all the other field goals, I felt really good with. So I’ve just got to eliminate those four that I’ve had and move forward.
“I’m disappointed about it, obviously. But not going to redo my whole approach to the game over it.”
Crosby was perfect on field goals between 30 and 39 yards last season, making all 14 of them. He struggled from that distance in 2008 and 2009 with five combined misses, but those issues seemed to be behind him.
“I don’t have to hit a 70-yarder on my short ones,” Crosby said. “That is the tendency sometimes, is to try to crush the ball. Just slow it down, just make kicks and go from there.”
Packers special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum described Crosby’s 32-yard miss as “a lack of good technique.” Slocum also acknowledged that Crosby’s three misses from beyond 50 yards this season could have thrown off the mechanics. One in particular, Crosby’s last-second miss in Indianapolis in which he knuckle-balled it nowhere near the upright, resulting in a Green Bay loss, was seemingly the beginning of a downward trend in his accuracy.
“It’s very easy in that operation to get out of balance, and when you do, you have a chance to mishit the ball,” Slocum said. “And he’s done that a couple times. He expects to make every kick. And when he misses one, he’s the first one to be the toughest critic on himself.”
Crosby, the Packers’ sixth-round pick in 2007, is coming off his best season, connecting on 85.7 percent of his field-goal attempts a year ago. His worst season was in 2009 when he made 75 percent, but if the NFL regular season ended now after eight games, Crosby would set a new career low.
“There’s no panic,” Crosby said. “There’s no room for panic in this type of thing. It’s just evaluate, watch the film. I watch it on Monday and then I move on.”
Lambeau Field can be a difficult place for kickers, challenging them with conditions that can be cold and windy, even as early as in October. Though Crosby’s three long misses this season have all happened on the road, kicking in Green Bay requires specific preparation. Crosby, along with snapper Brett Goode and holder Tim Masthay, go through what he called a “dress rehearsal” every Friday before a home game.
But even that didn’t help Crosby against the Jaguars, when he misjudged the conditions prior to his missed 32-yarder.
“Down on that end, it was swirling a little bit, but nothing that I read that would have done what it did with that ball flight,” Crosby said. “That is what was weird: When I compressed it, it felt pretty good. If anything, I must have hit too much, compressed it a little too hard, might have been a little flat and I just didn’t hit a straight ball.
“The wind was able to affect it and move it to the right. That’ll happen and that’s why we watch the film. That’s ultimately on me. I just have to make sure I hit a good ball and give it a chance to go in.”
If Crosby misses short field goals at the rate he did earlier in his career, the Packers may be in trouble. But it will take more than one clank of the goalpost from 32 yards out for many questions to arise about his close-range accuracy.
Crosby’s long-distance problems, however, have been an ongoing issue. Three NFL kickers — Cleveland’s Phil Dawson, Minnesota’s Blair Walsh and Baltimore’s Justin Tucker — are all 4 for 4 from that range this season. Three others are a perfect 2 for 2 from 50-plus yards.
Crosby, just 1 for 4 from that deep this season, has made only 13 of 28 in his career (46.4 percent), including four that were potential game-winning or game-tying kicks in the closing seconds.
“I have the leg strength to kick everything, all the distances they’re going to ask me to kick,” Crosby said. “I’ve been doing this long enough, I just have to slow everything down and make sure I make my kicks when I’m called upon.”