GREEN BAY, Wis. — No matter how bad Mason Crosby’s struggles got this season, the Packers continued to publicly show confidence in their kicker.
Midway through the season, when Crosby had missed five of his last nine field goals, coach Mike McCarthy stated repeatedly that there would not be a change. Green Bay never even brought in another kicker for a tryout. Crosby was going to be the Packers’ kicker this season, and there was seemingly nothing that was going to alter that.
Now, after making his last four field-goal attempts over the final two regular-season games, Crosby has started to validate the team’s unwavering support of him.
“I’m very pleased with the way Mason has responded to the tough road he’s gone down,” McCarthy said Wednesday. “I’m pleased with what he’s done the last two weeks.”
Crosby described his performance in recent months as “a slump” but spoke frankly as if it was a thing of the past.
“I put in the work and I overcame a lot this year,” Crosby said. “It was disappointing. I think also what I learned and how I learned to work through it and deal with it (is important). Obviously, it was something I wanted to be successful with, and I had to be successful with that patience they showed.”
The San Francisco 49ers were less patient with their struggling kicker, David Akers. The 49ers signed kicker Billy Cundiff this week after Akers missed at least one field goal in five of San Francisco’s final six regular-season games.
“We didn’t determine that we needed to light a fire under our kicker,” Packers special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. “We determined that we needed to get our kicker doing the right thing, and we’ve done that. I really feel good about the way Mason has responded to everything that’s gone on this season.”
Crosby also didn’t believe that a competition at kicker would have helped him at all.
“I think that’s just what (the 49ers) were looking at to try to motivate and just put a competition there,” Crosby said. “For us, it didn’t go that way, and I kind of bounced back and had a couple good games here at the end of this season.
“I had plenty of motivation. This is what I do for a living, this is what I love to do. I don’t have to look at another kicker to say, ‘I want to make kicks and I want to get my job done.’ I look at the guys in this locker room and the group of guys that I get to come to work with every day, and that was enough motivation for me.”
Even with Crosby’s late-season success, he still finished the regular season as the NFL’s most inaccurate kicker, connecting on 63.6 percent of his field goals. It was only a year ago that he was the league’s 10th-best kicker with a 85.7 percent success rate on field goals.
“These last two games were definitely something that I wanted to accomplish and make sure that I went out and did my job,” Crosby said. “I didn’t want to be talked about, didn’t want to be in any position where you’re asking about a certain field goal in a game. For me, that’s my goal on this team, is go out there, make field goals and allow this team the freedom to go out and play and let offense and defense make plays and win the game. That’s how I view it.”
Crosby even made a 51-yard field goal in the regular-season finale. It was from 50-plus yards this season where Crosby performed especially poorly, making just 2 of 9 from that distance.
But if Crosby has snapped out of his slump, he may be getting hot at the right time heading into the playoffs.
“It’s kind of onto another season,” Crosby said. “It’s a fresh start there, build off what happened at the end of this year and then go forward.”