CHICAGO — As reporters gathered around his locker Sunday, Mason Crosby stood with his back to the growing swarm. Maybe he could sense its presence. He folded his clothes with care and packed his bags for the journey home after the Packers’ division-clinching win over the Bears.
The celebratory atmosphere in the room was not powerful enough to break through the moroseness at Crosby’s locker.
For Crosby, Green Bay’s slumping placekicker, Sunday’s win evoked more concern than relief. He missed both of his field-goal tries — attempts of 43 (wide right) and 42 yards (off the left upright) — extending his streak of games with at least one missed field goal to eight. Crosby has made only 58.6 percent (17-of-29) of his kicks this season. The only placekicker with a worse accuracy rate this season — Billy Cundiff (58.3 percent) — has been out of work since October.
When Crosby was ready, he turned away from his locker to face the questions he knew he would be asked by the assembled media and endured the five-minute amateur psychotherapy session kickers sometimes go through after an off day.
How do you maintain your confidence when things are not going right?
“Some missed kicks don’t define me and don’t make me change who I am or what I do,” Crosby said.
It’s not just “some missed kicks,” though. Crosby’s funk seems to be getting worse — seven of his 10 missed kicks heading into Sunday were on attempts of 50 yards or longer. At least they were long ones. He had made 7-of-8 kicks between 40 and 49 yards before his two misses Sunday.
There are a lot of teams that probably would have made a change by now. Not the Packers, though. Head coach Mike McCarthy made that clear Sunday. They have not even brought in placekickers for tryouts and apparently are not planning to do so in the days leading up to Week 16.
“We are not changing our kicker, so you can write that down right now,” McCarthy said. “He is our guy. He needs to make those kicks. He knows that. We are at that time of the year.”
What about the Packers’ players, who know a playoff game very well could be decided by Crosby’s right foot? Charles Woodson, a defensive captain, didn’t say he wanted to see a change, but he did say he had never seen anything like Crosby’s decline.
“The thing is, the coaches are still showing confidence in him,” Woodson said. “They’re still putting him out there regardless.”
Well, that’s not quite the truth.
The Packers went for it, and converted, on 4th-and-6 with the ball on the Bears’ 26-yard line in the third quarter Sunday. It was not a sign of confidence in Crosby, though.
“I have to be excited that we won this,” Crosby said. “We have to be excited that we won the North division and we’re going to the playoffs. Everything we want to do is in front of us.
“I can’t sit and sulk and think about missed kicks because I have to make kicks. We’re going to get to the playoffs and there is going to be some big ones down the line.”
No doubt. That is what has to scare the Packers. They are about to embark on a playoff run with a kicker that they can’t possibly have complete faith in.
C Jeff Saturday was asked if he had any words of wisdom for his struggling teammate.
“I think we all know Mase,” Saturday said. “We know he’s working hard. Just a tough stretch, man. We all go through it as players. But, yeah, you just got to keep going. I told him that on the sideline. I said, ‘Look, man, keep your head up. We’re going to need it. We may need you to make one in just a minute.’ He didn’t back down a bit. He said ‘I’ll be there.’ I appreciate that.
“We just have to keep on moving forward.”
Forward, and for Crosby’s and the Packers’ sake, hopefully right down the middle.