To be honest, it will probably be in a negative light; there will be missed FGs and the team that misses the least FGs will win the game Saturday night. The real difference could be that the 49ers brought in a challenger and the Packers didn’t. Will that make a difference? That is yet to be seen. Mike McCarthy’s approach has been to profess public confidence in Mason Crosby, an average kicker, while the 49ers brought in Billy Cundiff (an NFL castoff) to challenge Akers, one of the (historically) best kickers in the NFL.
I know it’s a tired line and it’s not a positive note, but kicker can win for you or they can lose for you. Crosby has been horrible from 40+ and worse than that from 50+. He’s made 6 in a row and 8/9, but you can call me a skeptic until he kicks a second 40+ FG in the 49ers game. In my opinion the biggest part of the kicking game is managing momentum. When a drive stalls around the 35, it is great to have a kicker who can make a 52 yarder, but when the kicker’s confidence is down the right move is to punt or go for it on 4th down. I reference the Giants game, where a missed 55yd FG changed the momentum at MetLife stadium.
After trading TDs in opening drives, the Packers held the Giants for a 3 and out and (thanks to a nice 15 yd return by Cobb), started at their own 46 yd line. At that point, the Packers had a chance to silence the crowd and seize an advantage. An end around by Cobb gained 12 and put the Pack in Giants territory with a 1st down. The drive stalled and Mason Crosby came on and missed a 55 yd FG. Eli Manning and the Giants used the short field and scored a TD, energized the crowd and the rout was on. It ended as the worst loss for the Packers in years.
The crowd matters and the Packers need to play to quiet the crowd early, whether it be on offense or defense. MM almost always defers when winning the toss, so I expect the same this week. A defensive stop will go a long way, but absent an ensuing TD drive, I’d rather have Tim Masthay kicking from the 35 than Mason Crosby.
A perfect solution would be for the Packers to get TDs on their first three possessions and stifle the 49ers offense, but that is a pipedream. Crosby’s leg may be what makes the difference between the Packers hosting the Seahawks at Lambeau and watching the NFC Championship from the couch.
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