Like the Green Bay Packers as a whole, kicker Mason Crosby had his ups and downs this season.
In Week 2, Crosby savored the high of surpassing Ryan Longwell as the Packers’ all-time scoring leader. He finished with 108 points, giving him 1,145 in his nine-year career. Crosby connected on 24 of 28 field-goal attempts (the longest from 56 yards) and all 36 of his point-after-touchdown attempts.
In Week 10, however, Crosby experienced the low of missing what would’ve been a game-winning, 52-yard field goal in an 18-16 home loss to Detroit. He rebounded the next week by setting an NFL record with five field goals of 40 yards or more in a 30-13 victory at Minnesota.
But Crosby’s most surprising play came on a kickoff return in the fourth quarter of the season finale, when he forced a fumble while tackling Vikings returner Cordarrelle Patterson that the Packers recovered. Had Green Bay rallied to win, it would have been the turning point in a game that determined the NFC North champion. Instead, the Packers lost 20-13, and the play was largely forgotten.
Crosby sat down with Press-Gazette Media and discussed the forced fumble and his 2015 season:
On the forced fumble, were you trying to strip the ball?
I kind of felt like that was my only shot at making a play. …. It all happened so fast, I just remember thinking, “I’ve gotta take a shot at it,” and just went and tried to get my arm down on it. … Once I felt the ball, I was like, just keep pushing down, try to tackle him if the ball doesn’t come out, at least get him down.
Do you feel like you struck a blow for the kicking fraternity by forcing that fumble?
If we make a tackle, it’s always this huge thing. If we miss a tackle, then we’re written off as just kickers. We’re expected to make it but then when we do it’s this huge surprise. Over the years there has been that kind of mindset. But across the league there are a lot of great athletes who play the position now, guys that played other sports, did other things. … I played soccer growing up, played free safety in high school, so I didn’t grow up just swinging my leg. It was fun. I’m on Twitter and all the kickers and specialists across the league were giving me shout-outs.
As the Packers head into the playoffs, what do you remember about your last playoff game (when you tied an NFL postseason record with five field goals in the NFC championship game at Seattle)? Was that your best game, or would it have been if the Packers hadn’t lost (28-22 in overtime)?
Yeah, it was probably my best game, but it totally was not the feeling I wanted with how it ended. I would take a win and a couple fewer field goals any day of the week. But yeah, it’s something I can draw on and look at. I don’t think you ever can replicate that situation in kicking; every game and every opportunity is different. But I’ve had success in the playoffs, I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been on great teams in Green Bay, we’ve made it to the playoffs eight of the last nine years and have had chances to try and go win Super Bowls. That’s the mindset I take into the playoffs, knowing it’s a one-game season.
Did you feel a lot of pressure having to make that 48-yarder to send the game into overtime?
No. Obviously there was excitement, there was energy in that stadium. It was a cool moment when — that place gets so ridiculously loud — the kind of quiet and silence I found within myself and in my little world inside my helmet. Taking my process, taking my steps and really focusing on, “All right, get a good balance set up so I can go hit a good ball here.” I didn’t think about the results, what the situation was, it was more “Three steps back, two over, get in your stance and then basically just look at (holder) Tim (Masthay), give him the head nod” and then in my mind I just said go. I kind of don’t remember anything until impact, seeing the ball leave my foot and then, “All right, it’s on target.” Making a kick like that in an away stadium is pretty cool because of the air that leaves the building.
In the first game against the Lions this season, you had the last-second kick that didn’t go through. Did it feel any different off your foot than the successful kicks? Were you stunned?
I was surprised; I was disappointed that I didn’t knock it through. I felt good with my approach, felt good with my process and the whole way I went about it. It was one of those where I think I caught a little ground behind the ball and obviously didn’t hit a ball that even gave me a chance. That’s probably the most disappointing thing. … Bounced back the next week (at Minnesota) with five field goals over 40 yards, one of the better games of my career. That’s what our job is about, each one is an individual opportunity and being able to compartmentalize that is so important. You have to just move to the next one.
You were one of only five NFL kickers to make all of your PATs this season. Was it a good idea by the NFL to move it back (to the 15-yard line) this season?
It accomplished what they were hoping it would, seeing it be a tougher kick and having it not be an automatic thing. I took it as, it’s another field-goal attempt, it’s another chance to score points. We’ve always been able to put the ball in the end zone so I knew I’d have opportunities. … With a 33-yarder, you had to hit a good ball every time.
Tim Masthay has been your holder since 2010. How important is that, and how difficult has it been losing injured long snapper Brett Goode?
I trust Tim completely, just that chemistry with that operation, and obviously with Brett for eight years before he unfortunately got hurt. But Rick Lovato has done a great job coming in (as long snapper), and having Tim, the rapport and trust we’ve built over the years, we’re just trying to keep it going. I couldn’t ask for a better guy.
You’ll turn 32 in September. This is your ninth season, how much longer will you keep kicking?
As long as I can. I love being able to play this game and take pride in keeping my mind and my body sharp. As long as I continue to perform and continue to love this game, which I do, I’d like to try to do it as long as I can. To be able say I’ve played 10 years would be pretty cool, so I’d like to at least get there and then we’ll try to tack them on after that.
You’ll be entering free agency this year. Are you optimistic about staying in Green Bay?
I am. That would be the ideal situation. It’s been an amazing nine years, setting records, being ingrained in this organization. I really couldn’t envision being anywhere else. … It’s definitely where I want to be and I hope that through this process in the next couple of months we can get something done so I can be back here.
Is it hard for you to believe you’re the Packers’ all-time leading scorer, with all the great players they’ve had?
It is kind of wild, looking at the list of guys that came before me. It’s special to be on the top of that list.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Stucourt