Rhythm key to Mason Crosby's revival

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mason Crosby has his rhythm back.

Perhaps more than anything else, that has allowed the Green Bay Packers' kicker to bounce back from his nightmarish 2012 season, when he converted a league-low 63.6 percent of his field goals.

If that wasn’t evident already, Crosby solidified his return to form by making all five of his field goals in Sunday’s 22-9 victory over the Detroit Lions. For that, Crosby was named the NFC’s special-teams player of the week on Wednesday.

Such a performance would have seemed improbable a year ago, when Crosby was mired in the worst slump of his career. In a stretch where he missed 12 of 24 kicks, Crosby regularly faced questions about whether his problems were physical or mental -- or some combination of both. At the time, answers were tough to come by.

This season, however, the reason for Crosby’s success -- he has made all nine of his field goals -- has become clear.

“I think he is much more rhythmic at this point,” Packers special-teams coach Shawn Slocum said. “It allows him to be in balance when he strikes the ball.”

Crosby’s start is reminiscent to 2011, when he made his first 16 field goals of the season on the way to a career-best 85.7 percent conversion rate.

It appeared Crosby had come out of his slump late last season, when he made his last six field goals (including two in the playoffs). Facing competition from another kicker in training camp for the first time since he beat out Dave Rayner in his rookie season of 2007, Crosby stumbled early on. He missed five of eight field goals during the team’s annual scrimmage, and the questions returned.

By the end of camp, he had turned things around again. He accepted a pay cut that reduced his salary by $1.6 million. But he’s on pace to earn every dollar of that back through incentives. In fact, he made $400,000 of it back just by being on the roster last week.

“I feel like the work we’ve put in through the last few months and through the last year has just really come through,” Crosby said. “Every time I go at the ball, I just feel like I can be as smooth as possible. If anything, I feel like I’m going at it slow, and our timing might be slow, but our timing is perfect.”

Crosby had to walk a fine line between slowing down his rhythm and still getting the ball off in less than 1.3 seconds from snap to kick.

“We’ve always been really quick, so I had some room there,” Crosby said. “We’re still quick. It’s still right where we want to be.”

Counting preseason games this past summer (when he went 6-for-6) and playoff games last season, Crosby has made 21 straight field goals in game situations.

“You can dive into fundamentals and all the things that go into breaking down all the technical stuff, and I did that work in the offseason and really looked at every little aspect,” Crosby said. “But then I just let that go and just said, ‘Smooth tempo, go into the ball, stick a good plant (foot) and then just swing.’”

When asked why he couldn’t figure that out last season, Crosby said: “It’s not that it wasn’t there at some points. It was like that one kick in games I’d get a little quick and some things would go.”