GREEN BAY — Matt LaFleur made two things very clear Monday afternoon about kicker Mason Crosby’s three wayward field goal attempts during the Green Bay Packers’ 25-22 overtime victory over the Cincinnati Bengals a day earlier:
The misses — from 36, 51 and 40 yards out — weren’t all Crosby’s fault, and he wasn’t about to delve into details as to what long-snapper Hunter Bradley or holder Corey Bojorquez might’ve done to contribute to the misses before Crosby’s game-winning 49-yard walk-off kick with 2 minutes left in overtime.
“There’s just some things that we absolutely need to clean up just from an operations standpoint,” LaFleur said during his usual day-after-the-game Q&A session with reporters. “You can’t put all of that on Mason. I thought just there’s some areas we have to make sure we get corrected. And we will.”
Asked what specifically went awry within the operation, LaFleur replied, “I’m not going to throw anybody under the bus. So, I’m not going to expand on that. Sorry. You’re going to have to watch the tape, evaluate it yourself, and come up with your own conclusions there.”
More on that in a minute. First, LaFleur’s it-takes-a-village view of the kicking operation is hardly new. Throughout his 15-year career, Crosby has always used inclusive pronouns like “we” and “us” when describing why things have gone right for him on crucial kicks, making sure he gives credit to his long-snapper (Brett Goode and Bradley for most of his career) and his holder (primarily Jon Ryan, Tim Masthay and JK Scott over the years).
And LaFleur’s take was also a viewpoint that quarterback Aaron Rodgers had shared in the immediate aftermath of the game, likening the kicking process to a quarterback needing to be in concert with his offensive line and receiving targets on a passing play.
“I know he was disappointed about a couple of those misses,” said Rodgers, who along with Crosby are the only two players on the roster who remain from the Packers’ last championship team, the 2010 outfit that won Super Bowl XLV. “But to drill a 50-yarder like that to win the game is special. He’s a special guy, great player.
“A lot of times, just like with quarterbacking, there’s other factors that go into the whole operation and I think we had to clean up the operation a little bit and make sure we’re giving him laces every time and making his job a little bit easier.”
Reviewing the video of Crosby’s three missed field goal attempts — he also hooked an extra point earlier in the game — at LaFleur’s behest is a challenging task. The NFL’s Game Pass program doesn’t provide extreme close-up looks at the snap and hold, but FOX Sports did deliver replays on all three of the misses.
On the 36-yarder, which Crosby missed with 2:12 left in regulation, Bojorquez clearly has to spin the ball after getting it down as Crosby is in his approach. The ideal snap arrives at the holder’s hand with the laces pointing skyward, allowing the holder to put the ball down without having to move it directionally.
On the 51-yarder, which Crosby missed on the final play of regulation, Bradley’s snap appears to arrive properly, as Bojorquez gets the ball down in rhythm and doesn’t have to spin it. On that kick, Crosby might’ve just pushed it a smidge left.
And on the 40-yarder, which Crosby missed with 8:08 left in OT after Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow threw an interception to Packers linebacker De’Vondre Campbell on the first play from scrimmage, Bradley’s snap appears wobbly and Bojorquez gets it down just in the nick of time before Crosby’s right foot swings through.
For his part, Crosby, who’d made three field goals from 44, 44 and 22 yards out earlier in the game, didn’t mention anything about the operation being off after the game when asked what happened on the misses.
“Didn’t knock them through the uprights,” Crosby replied. “We’re going to look at the film as we do every time, make or miss. We go and evaluate it, and I have to find the line on those and try to knock them through.”
Later, Crosby sounded as if he felt the 51-yarder was a surprising miss because the operation was good, saying, “I have every confidence I’m going to make every kick. I felt, honestly, (good) on most of them … especially that 51-yarder right at the end of (regulation). (I) felt really good about that. I just picked a bad line and the wind just kind of took it on me.”
LaFleur, meanwhile, said he didn’t think the Packers’ recent protection issues on placekicks factored into the misses or caused Crosby to accelerate his approach on the ball.
“No,” LaFleur replied. “I don’t believe so, no.”
But the strangest part of those misses? They came after Crosby had made a franchise-record 27 straight, including the three field goals he’d made earlier in the game.
“I mean, that was a crazy end to that game. That’s insanity,” Crosby said. “The fact that we kept getting opportunities, you’ve got to give it up to our team, the way we fought to get in that position again. I just wanted so badly to come through there.
“You live, you learn and I’m glad I got to hit that last one.”
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