GREEN BAY—Head Coach Mike McCarthy and Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum both watched kicker Mason Crosby have a great week of practice and a solid pregame warmup on Sunday at Soldier Field.
That has left them with only one conclusion – that Crosby’s struggles are strictly in his head.
“I think it really just comes down to the mental edge,” McCarthy said on Monday, amidst reiterating multiple times that Crosby will remain the Packers kicker despite two more missed field goal attempts on Sunday that have left him having converted just 12 of his last 24 tries. “We need to get that back.”
How is the operative question. Crosby’s two misses on Sunday, from 42 and 43 yards, were both from the right hash mark, and the first miss led him to overcompensate on the other. After missing wide to the right in his first try, he hit the left upright on his second attempt.
Slocum said it comes down to Crosby trusting all of his preparation, both during the week and before the game, and carrying that trust into game action on each kick.
“He kicked fluidly, he made the field goals in pregame, made all of his field goals last week in practice, and looked good doing it,” Slocum said. “I think (the struggling) indicates that he’s fighting to do it right.”
McCarthy said there are several factors causing him to stick with Crosby, a chief one being the team’s draft-and-develop philosophy, but he isn’t naïve to the fact that the situation could be viewed by others as undermining the accountability the coaching staff demands of every player.
“That’s a great question for the locker room,” McCarthy said. “I’m not going to sit here and act like everybody is not watching how the situation is being handled.
“No one is happy with the number of kicks Mason has missed.”
Added Slocum: “It’s clear what we think about the players we drafted. We want to develop them and do well. Mason’s had some bumps and he needs to get it right.”
Things certainly went right in linebacker Clay Matthews’ return after a four-game absence. He was one of the game ball winners on defense for a performance McCarthy termed “exceptional” and that included two sacks, two other tackles for loss and a deflected pass.
Even better, McCarthy said Matthews’ rep count was kept low, as planned, but primarily because the Bears only had 48 offensive plays.
“That’s exactly what you’re looking for,” McCarthy said of Matthews coming off a one-month layoff. “A productive day, and he didn’t have to play more than 50 snaps.”
Whether or not the defense will also get back Charles Woodson this week remains uncertain. McCarthy said “he needs to play” but wouldn’t say if that means the last two regular-season games or just the finale prior to the postseason.
“He’s been out eight weeks. It’s important for him to play,” McCarthy said. “He wants to play and get some momentum and get ready for the playoffs.”
The offense needs to do the same after an outing that, after reviewing the film, wasn’t graded as well as McCarthy was anticipating. The offense rolled up 391 yards, its second highest total over the last seven games, but produced only 21 points.
“We left points on the board, there’s no doubt about it,” McCarthy said. “We had two missed field goals and then we had the fumble there (by Ryan Grant) getting ready to go into the red zone. We had a chance to really knock the Bears out. We had them on the ropes and we didn’t do that.”
Perhaps the knockout punch is one of the final pieces to add down the stretch as the Packers try to win two more games and perhaps secure a first-round bye. Regardless of playoff seed, though, the Packers will continue a push to play their best football at the right time.
“Obviously, that’s the goal for everybody, but how do you do that? How do you attain that?” McCarthy said. “That’s really what we’re working through, to continue to improve in all three areas.
“I feel like this team has a chance and is headed in the direction to be a much more balanced, well-rounded football team than we were last year.” Additional coverage - Dec. 17