He knew it was good when it left his foot, and even though it was just the preseason, hitting a game-winner meant something to Mason Crosby.
In the bigger picture, Crosby felt his 50-yard field goal as time expired on Friday in Indianapolis was more important for the specialist trio of snapper Brett Goode, holder Tim Masthay and himself to nail the “operation” in a last-second situation. It helped for the young players on offense to execute the drive to set up the kick, too.
But Crosby won’t deny how good it felt to stroke one “pure” like that, in a tie game with the clock hitting zero.
“As soon as I hit it and lifted my head, I was already putting my hands up, because it was one of those that came off my foot and felt great,” Crosby said. “I was waiting for Tim to stop watching it.”
Crosby wanted to celebrate at least a little, and why not? He hadn’t made a game-winner since his first pro game back in the 2007 opener, a 42-yarder against Philadelphia.
Since then, he’d gotten just three other attempts. In 2008, a 52-yarder at the Metrodome leaked barely wide to the right, and a 38-yarder at Chicago was blocked. Last season, a 53-yarder at Washington in Week 5 hit the upright.
Crosby has never dwelled on those misses, but like any kicker he remembers them, just as fans do. He’s never faced a crisis of confidence in clutch situations, though, and for good reason. The blocked one in Chicago wasn’t his fault, and the other two were well-struck. Last year’s kick in Washington hit near the top of the left upright and distance-wise might have been good from 65.
“I think Mason is fully confident, just like he should be,” Goode said.
He’s maintaining just as much confidence in his onside-kick ability, another beneficial situation to come up in preseason on Friday. Rookie M.D. Jennings recovered Crosby’s successful onside kick with 35 seconds left after a touchdown and two-point conversion had tied the game.
“I hadn’t been on the field since early in the third quarter,” said Crosby, who has executed a successful onside kick each of the last two years – at New England last season and at Arizona in the 2009 playoffs. “To go out and have that as my first kick since then, it was a little challenging, but I just trusted it.”
The organization showed its trust in Crosby by signing him to a multi-year contract immediately after the lockout ended in late July. Crosby had played out the four-year deal he signed as a sixth-round draft pick back in ’07.
The knock against Crosby is that he’s never hit the 80-percent mark on field goals in any given season. He has made between 75 and 79 percent each year.
Known for his strong leg, which should prove more valuable this year with kickoffs moved up 5 yards, Crosby has averaged five field-goal attempts per season from 50-plus, and that’s had an impact on his statistics.
Including postseason, 13 of Crosby’s 32 misses have come from 50-plus in his career. He has connected on 84.4 percent of field goals inside 50 yards (103 of 122), 90.5 percent inside 40 (76 of 84).
Crosby won’t use the long-distance tries as an excuse for his stats, because he’s made plenty of long ones, too. On Sunday, he was dead-on in practice, hitting all six of his field goal tries, including the last three from 50-plus.
He said Friday’s kick felt off his foot like the franchise-record 56-yarder in the opener at Philadelphia last season, and that’s as good a feeling to take into a new year as any.
“Last year all our games we lost were close games, and field goals are an important part of that,” Crosby said. “I’m going to ride that (kick in Indy). It’s preseason but it’s important to get those reps and make that kick so that as we go into the season, we know how it feels and can go and execute.”