In the high-stakes world of NFL playoffs, every play, every point, can be the difference between glory and defeat. For the Green Bay Packers, their Divisional round clash against the San Francisco 49ers put this reality into sharp focus.
At the heart of the drama stood rookie kicker Anders Carlson, thrust into a role filled with expectation and pressure, a role previously held by the seasoned Mason Crosby for a remarkable 16 seasons. Crosby's consistency and clutch performance in critical moments, including an impressive 89% success rate in field goal attempts and a perfect record in extra point attempts during his 23 career playoff games, set a high benchmark for his successor.
Carlson, in his first season as the starting kicker, faced a daunting task in filling Crosby's shoes. His trial by fire came in the most pivotal of moments: the fourth quarter of the game against the 49ers. With the Packers leading by four, a successful 41-yard field goal by Carlson could have extended their lead to seven, a potentially game-sealing margin.
However, in a twist of fate, the kick veered off course, a miss that would haunt the Packers for the rest of the game. The 49ers capitalized on this opportunity, scoring a game-winning touchdown in the subsequent drive, clinching a narrow three-point victory.
The aftermath of this missed field goal was swift and unforgiving. Frustrated Packers fans, lamenting their team's elimination from the playoffs, did not mince words in expressing their disappointment with Carlson. Even Head Coach Matt LaFleur's comment, "When he goes out there, I just pray," underscored the unease surrounding the rookie kicker's performance.
The season's statistics paint a stark picture of Carlson's struggles.
To Anders Carlson,
You suck man. Please quit the game of football. — Zach Arent (@zacharent1) January 21, 2024
With a total of 13 missed attempts, the highest in the league for the year, his rookie season was marred by inconsistency. Ranking 26th in field goal percentage and 30th in extra point percentage among all qualified kickers, Carlson's performance lagged significantly behind the league's standards, let alone those set by his predecessor.
These numbers were a significant factor in the Packers fans' vocal nostalgia for Crosby and their unfavorable comparisons of Carlson to his more successful brother, Daniel Carlson, of the Las Vegas Raiders.