Crosby cool under postseason pressure

Weston Hodkiewicz
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Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby (2) celebrates his first quarter field goal against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field.

Mason Crosby was warming up for the Green Bay Packers’ playoff game in Washington last weekend at the same time one missed field goal made Blair Walsh a household name across the country.

Social media ignited with videos of Minnesota’s third-year kicker shanking a 27-yard field goal wide left, as Seattle dispatched the Vikings from the postseason behind a 10-9 win at frigid TCF Bank Stadium. Walsh, an all-pro kicker, immediately became a punchline for jokes and a magnet for criticism.

Welcome to the life of an NFL kicker.

When Crosby finally saw the kick, he sympathized with Walsh’s plight. Every kicker misses a game-winning field goal at some point in their careers. As recently as November, Crosby mishit what would have been a game-winning 52-yard field goal in an 18-16 loss to Detroit.

It just so happens Walsh’s flub was broadcast to 35.5 million viewers.

Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby leaps into the arms of Aaron Ripkowski after stripping the ball on a kickoff return forcing a fumble recovered by Micah Hyde late in the game.

“I’ve obviously missed some game-winners during my time,” Crosby said. “It’s one of those where you just feel exactly what he’s going through. Obviously that situation is a little tough where you’re going to advance on. I just felt for him. It’s a tough deal.”

“It happens to the best of us. I hope for his sake he can move on quickly.”

There are high stakes for kickers this time of year. For Crosby, he entered this postseason on one of the greatest runs of his nine-year NFL career. He’s hit 18 consecutive field goals in the playoffs after making 29- and 43-yard field goals in the 35-18 win over Washington.

Crosby needs only one more make to tie David Akers’ NFL record for consecutive made field goals in the postseason.

The crown jewel of that streak came in January’s NFC championship game when Crosby nailed a 48-yard field goal to force overtime. It was the final of five field goals he made against Seattle, but it’s often forgotten in the Packers’ 28-22 demoralizing loss to the Seahawks.

Marshawn Lynch’s 24-yard touchdown run gave Seattle a 22-19 lead with 1 minute, 25 seconds left in regulation. While quarterback Aaron Rodgers drove the Packers’ offense down the field, Crosby began warming up for what turned out to be the game-tying kick.

TV cameras started to converge around him, attempting to shoot Crosby during his warm-ups. However, his practice net kept falling over. So instead of getting the B-roll they desired, the TV crew was mostly treated to Crosby fixing his target.

Finally, the cameras had enough and left.

“I think they got tired of filming me trying to fix the net, so they didn’t do too much,” joked Crosby on Thursday. “That might be a new routine.”

Crosby got in a few kicks and eventually drilled the kick to force overtime. If he hadn’t, it likely would have been Crosby and not Brandon Bostick who everyone would have viewed as the scapegoat despite neither having anything to do with the two touchdowns Seattle scored in the final two minutes.

That’s what kickers sign up for, though. Crosby made nearly $3 million in the final year of his contract this season to be placed in those exact hair-raising situations. If such a scenario would play out in Saturday night’s divisional playoff against Arizona, Crosby says he’d relish the opportunity to try a game-winning kick.

Make or miss, it’s all his shoulders.

“I’ve played football for a long time. I know every situation, every possible scenario how it could play out,” Crosby said. “Anytime we have a chance at the end of the game to try to close it off, I’m very confident that we’re going to get in that position. Just start focusing in and locking in for that moment. I don’t think there’s a better moment than that and be able to kick a field goal to end the game and have that moment under your belt.” and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

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