Packers reporters Tom Silverstein and Jim Owczarski discuss Aaron Jones' playing time and Mason Crosby's struggles. USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
GREEN BAY - Three weeks ago, the Minnesota Vikings released rookie Daniel Carlson after he missed each of his three field-goal attempts at Lambeau Field, including two that would have won the game in overtime.
He was far from the only kicker casualty this season. The Cleveland Browns released Zane Gonzalez after he missed four field-goal attempts in New Orleans. The Dallas Cowboys released veteran Dan Bailey in final cuts.
Such is life for an NFL kicker. Security is always a fleeting notion, unlikely to last long. Yet the Green Bay Packers are sticking with veteran Mason Crosby after his five missed kicks — four field goals and an extra point — that would have accounted for the difference in Sunday’s 31-23 loss in Detroit.
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It was the second game this season Crosby’s right foot factored heavily into the outcome. He also missed a potential game-winning, 52-yard field goal at the end of regulation against the Vikings. Regardless, coach Mike McCarthy said his faith in Crosby hasn’t diminished.
“He’s a proven, highly successful kicker,” McCarthy said. “I still believe in him, but he knows it, he has to make those kicks.”
Crosby is the rare kicker who has proven he can overcome a serious case of the yips. He bounced back from a disastrous 2012 season to become one of the NFL’s top-paid players at his position. But McCarthy said his belief is also rooted in the present.
Before Sunday, McCarthy said Crosby was kicking the football as well as ever. The veteran was 10-for-11 on field goals in the first four weeks, and though the lone miss would have won a game, Crosby made five field goals against the Vikings.
While Crosby took accountability for Sunday’s misses, he’s also working with a rookie long snapper and holder. Punter JK Scott, who serves as the holder on Crosby's kicks, said nothing seemed wrong with the process.
"Everything felt pretty smooth, there's nothing I can think of that was out of sorts," Scott said Monday. "Little things can make a big difference. Just watching him kick, everything was online. His misses were maybe just veering to the right slightly ... he hit the (upright) twice. It's just little things.
"He's the best kicker I've ever met. I've never seen somebody that is as clutch as him. And I've never met a guy that's as mentally tough and strong as he is. I don't think this will set him back at all. "
McCarthy said his veteran kicker needs to make those attempts, but he's been impressed with his guidance for the field-goal battery.
“I mean, you’re talking about a kicker who’s been through more operation changes than I can recall in my time in the league,” McCarthy said, “and he’s an extraordinary leader with those two young guys. So there’s definitely a little bit of a growing curve there that I think it was obvious we’re going to have work through, when the roster was established. But at the end of the day, it’s about results and we know we need to be better and we need to make those kicks.”
King: Punt 'didn't hit me'
Kevin King had a rough Sunday. First, the Packers cornerback muffed a punt after Detroit had been stopped on its first possession. Referees determined the football bounced off King’s back, giving the Lions possession at the 1-yard line.
At his locker Monday, King was incredulous. He said the punt actually hit Lions gunner Charles Washington’s right hand.
“It didn’t hit me,” King said. “When I was out there on the field, I was actually like, I was going like this (looks up), and I seen it actually hit him. The thing is, if you see my reaction, if it would’ve hit me, I would’ve turned around and tried to get it. I just ran off the field.
“I thought they were celebrating because they downed it at the 1. I didn’t even know that’s what they were cheering about until, like, the replay. No, it didn’t hit me.”
After the muff was held up on replay review, the Lions scored their first touchdown one play later.
King’s day didn’t end any better. In the fourth quarter, he missed a tackle against Lions receiver Golden Tate and fell to the ground. As Tate fought for more yards, his left foot inadvertently stomped on King’s face.
King missed the rest of that series and the next, carted to the locker room so he could get “about four or five” stitches. King said he would have returned for the next series had the game not ended, and he doesn’t expect the gash on his lower lip to affect him in the future.
“That’s not an injury, per se,” King said. “That’s just one of those things that happens in football. One of those freak accident-type things.”
The groin injury that prevented rookie cornerback Jaire Alexander from playing Sunday isn’t expected to linger.
McCarthy said “there’s hope” Alexander might play when the Packers return to the field for next week’s Monday night game against the San Francisco 49ers.
“Until we really get him out there and start running him through protocol,” McCarthy said, “we really won’t know.”
Alexander practiced last week after injuring his groin against the Buffalo Bills, but it wasn’t enough rehab to enable him to play. King followed a similar script with his groin injury. King was inactive for the first game after returning to practice, then played in Detroit.
Several of the Packers' problems Sunday were plenty visible, but one of their biggest issues was the hidden yardage.
McCarthy said the Packers were minus 300-plus yards in field position. Their average starting field position was the 21-yard line, while the Lions' average was their own 46.
The poor field position was mostly a byproduct of turnovers and missed field goals.
“That’s extremely difficult on everybody,” McCarthy said.
Stu Courtney contributed to this report.