By Joseph Gunther
The Green Bay Packers entered this 2014 season with five allowed blocked kicks since Shawn Slocum was promoted to special teams coordinator in 2009. This season they allowed more than that in 16 games.
In their Week 17 win over the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field to secure the NFC North Division crown and first round bye in the playoffs, Isa Abdul-Quddus got through the left side of the line to block Mason Crosby’s 52-yard field goal attempt.
The Packers averted disaster when Lions running back Joique Bell fumbled on the next play for the turnover, but frustration is mounting.
“Extremely high,” Slocum said about the frustration level without hesitation. “We need to do a better job — personnel needs to do a better job and accountability factor. They need to do a better job in protection.”
Crosby felt good about the kick, but doesn’t know what could have been because it was blocked so quickly.
“It was about max distance,” the Packers kicker said. “Didn’t even look at it, but felt like the guy hit the ball before it even had a chance.”
Slocum has no problem with Crosby. It was the protection that he did not like.
“Our left wing needs to do a better job there,” he said. “It’s disappointing. We’ve spent a lot of time, because we’ve had some problems this season in our placement protection. We’ve devoted the necessary time in practice.
“That was a critical play in the game and our accountability needs to pick up there.”
Having a week off will help, but unless they can fix it, it could become costly in the playoffs. There opponents the rest of the way will find weaknesses and exploit it.
“I’m certain that everyone involved with the field goal protection is frustrated at what’s transpired,” punter Tim Masthay, who is also the holder for the field goal unit, said. “Frustration is probably the most definite emotion of our field goal unit right now. We have to figure out a way to protect the kicks better and me, (Crosby) and (long snapper Brett Goode) have to do our jobs well. That’s pretty much it. We have two weeks to try and get things ironed out. Hopefully we’ll do that.”
2015 opponents revealed
The NFL released their list of opponents for next season for all 32 teams. The Packers will continue to play the Chicago Bears, Lions and Minnesota Vikings in home-and-home series. They will also play the Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers and Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field. They will also play the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers on the road.
All four NFC North teams will play all four teams in the NFC West and AFC West. The difference in the opponents is the remaining two games against NFC foes. As the division champion, the Packers will play the division winners (Cowboys and Panthers) of the NFC East and NFC South, respectively.
For more Packers news and updates, visit Packers Central.
Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.