Week 4 was an ugly one for NFL kickers.
It began on Thursday night, when (now former) Steelers’ kicker Josh Scobee missed from 49 and 41 yards in the fourth quarter against the Ravens, two field goals that would have effectively sealed the game for Pittsburgh.
Instead, the misses kept Baltimore around and forced Mike Tomlin to keep his offence on the field for 4th downs in overtime, which twice resulted in turnovers-on-downs. Baltimore won the game in overtime (on a 52-yard field goal, no less).
Sunday wasn’t much better. To recap:
- Jacksonville’s Jason Myers missed a 53-yarder at the end of regulation twice in two plays, as the first miss was negated by an Indianapolis timeout. He also missed a 48-yarder in overtime that would have won the game and snapped Indianapolis’ divisional win-streak.
- Caleb Sturgis, the Eagles’ new kicker, missed a 33-yard FG attempt and an extra point as the Eagles went on to lose by three.
- Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh missed a 38-yarder en route to a Vikings three-point loss.
- Tampa Bay’s Kyle Brindza missed two field goals and a PAT.
- New Orleans’ kicker Zach Hocker plunked what would have been a game-winning, 30-yarder straight off the left goal post at the end of regulation.
As of the Giants game yesterday, there had been the same number of missed PATs through just 239 games as there had been through 2,497 over the past season.
The story of the weekend was the plight of the kicker, and perhaps the pressure of the new extra point distance can explain why kickers seemed to crumble in the clutch on Sunday.
Former Giants kicker and CBS analyst Jay Feely offered an interesting explanation for the missed kicks. Feeley wrote (via Twitter):
Why are NFL kickers struggling? Extra Points used to be in-game practice. You didn’t have to worry about the result (it was a given) which allowed you to focus on your form and get grooved in during the game. Somewhat of a confidence builder. Like throwing a couple screens early for a QB. Now, the pressure is bigger for Ex Pts than even FG’s because there is zero room for error (100% success is demanded). The pressure intensifies and it negatively impacts FG performance as well.
It’s important to note that kickers haven’t been struggling on extra points any more than was expected: overall, the percentage made for the moved-back PAT this season (~95%) is about the same as that of made field goals from the same length over the past two seasons. And, of course, there were still many displays of solid kicking over the weekend: Chicago, San Diego, Baltimore, and Denver were all won by late-game field goals.
The problem, then, is that kickers no longer have easy chip shots for Exta Points to help get them in their stride. As Feely is suggesting, there is even less room for error now, and the pressure seems to be getting to kickers’ heads.
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