The idea was to put some excitement into NFL extra points. On Sunday, it became unwise to head to the fridge when the kickers came in.
A dozen times in Week 11, those 1-pointers became no-pointers. Blame the swirling winds. Blame the suspect blocking. Blame sloppy holding.
Or point fingers at the toes of Mike Nugent and Robbie Gould, who each missed a pair of PATs. Not to mention Stephen Gostkowski and Steven Hauschka. Connor Barth and Kai Forbath. Matt Prater and Cody Parkey. And Jason Myers, who failed on seven extra points last season — yep, seven — and still kept his job with the Jaguars.
“It just drives me crazy to have a poor performance that contributes to a loss,” said Nugent, whose Bengals fell 16-12 to Buffalo. Had he made both extra points, a field goal late in the game could have won it for Cincinnati.
“That’s the second time that’s happened this year, that I’ve contributed enormously to a loss. If I did what I was brought here to do, we’d have two less losses, in my opinion.”
Several kickers noted they were compensating for the wind, particularly the Giants’ Gould and the Bears’ Barth, who coincidentally replaced the veteran Gould in Chicago this season. Kicking in the Meadowlands has never been a picnic, and conditions figure to get worse there and in many other NFL cities as the schedule moves along.
But one of the main reasons for bringing in veteran kickers — Myers is in his second pro season, Hopkins and Parkey their third, but the rest are pretty seasoned NFLers — is their ability to handle such challenges, mentally and physically.
They failed in record numbers Sunday.
“The first one I hit was where I was hitting them in pregame,” Gould said. “I thought I made it and it went outside the left upright. The second one I just didn’t hit a good ball. Today was tough, but I have to make them.”
His coach, Ben McAdoo, was giving Gould the benefit of the doubt.
“It was a tough day to kick the football,” McAdoo admitted, also knowing it was his decision to bring in Gould after the Giants waived Josh Brown in October following revelations about his abusive behavior toward his former wife.
“We’ll go back, we’ll look at it, we’ll talk about everything. The wind obviously was a factor every time you had a play in the kicking game today.”
That was not the case in Detroit. Ford Field is indoors, yet Prater and Myers had misses.
So what’s going on when a two-time All-Pro such as Gostkowski misses three PATs in the last five games? Or Hauschka has an extra-point kick blocked in successive games?
Not to mention perhaps the play of the year last weekend, when Denver ran back a blocked extra point against New Orleans for a defensive 2-point conversion that won the game?
A 33-yard kick should be automatic for virtually every NFL kicker, yet we know, 12 times over on Sunday, that is not true.
Among the factors contributing are pressure, over-analysis, poor mechanics, weak blocking and, well, bad luck.
Before last year, when the new rule placed the ball at the 15 for extra-point kicks, little thought or preparation was needed for such chip shots. Now, kickers — and holders, snappers and blockers — do need to think about the kicks. But they don’t get a whole bunch of extra practices on them.
Kickers traditionally are a quirky bunch. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; just look at how successful Sebastian Janikowski has been for the Raiders.
But they also are prone to thinking too hard about kicks. Why else would opposing coaches try to ice them?
Bad weather, particularly slippery surfaces and wind, have a huge effect. A wet ball is much harder to boot accurately, as well as more difficult to snap and hold. Uncertain footing plagues kickers’ legs and psyches.
As for the wind, that’s the enemy of everyone but defenders on a football team.
So those excuses sometimes work, though, again, not in the friendly kicking confines of a dome.
The biggest issue for kickers comes when they get in a rut. Unlike other positions that require deep knowledge of a playbook, kickers and punters are much more on their own. When placekickers can’t find the middle of the uprights, they usually find themselves on their own and off the roster.
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