Late field goals are becoming a sure thing in NFL

Late field goals are becoming a sure thing in NFL
October 21, 2013, 5:21 pm
Share This Post

Buffalo Bills kicker Dan Carpenter kicks a field goal during the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

(APWF)

Playing for the field goal used to be a roll of the dice at the end of NFL games. Now, it's almost a sure thing.

The numbers say kickers are more dependable than ever, both overall and when the outcome is on the line. Consider this: Only one field goal attempt for the lead in the final two minutes of a game or in overtime this season has been missed, by Houston's Randy Bullock from 46 yards on Sept. 15. The Texans still won the game, in overtime against Tennessee.

On Sunday, four games were won with late field goals: Nick Folk of the Jets from 42 yards to beat the Patriots in overtime; Cincinnati's Mike Nugent from 54 to beat Detroit; Buffalo's Dan Carpenter from 31 to beat his former team, Miami; and Pittsburgh's Shaun Suisham from 42 to knock off archrival Baltimore.

Everyone loves the last-ditch touchdowns such as Tom Brady's connection with Kenbrell Thompkins against New Orleans the previous week. But more and more, coaches are looking to their soccer-style booters to provide the decisive points.

And the kickers are coming through.

''I like the situation,''' said Folk, whose work proves it - he has clinched three of New York's four victories with late field goals. ''I don't find it intimidating, and I just face the pressure.''

Folk and the Jets are at Cincinnati next Sunday, where the Bengals have their own strong-willed kicker in former Jet Mike Nugent. Against the Bills on Oct. 13, he nailed a 43-yarder for a 27-24 win. Then he beat the Lions by the same score with the 54-yarder, the longest winning kick in the fourth quarter for a team that didn't relinquish the lead through seven weeks, according to STATS.

Earlier in the final period, Nugent had missed from 47 yards. But he knew coach Marvin Lewis would have faith in him if the situation arose later on.

''You kind of think about it both ways. I sit there thinking if I'd made that earlier kick, how different would the game be at the end of the day,'' Nugent said. ''You think about that after the game but not so much during, because if you make a big deal of that during the game, it's going to drive you crazy and maybe not get the better result.''

Carpenter's might be the most inspiring performance. After five years with the Dolphins, he was released and wound up in Buffalo. On Sunday, he connected for a little payback.

Coach Doug Marrone was certain he could rely on Carpenter, and not just because of the kicker's familiarity with the stadium. He knew Carpenter wouldn't tighten up in a pressurized situation.

''I think for maybe with a young kicker that could be (an issue) but not with a guy like him,'' Marrone said. ''He's fine. Nothing's really going to rattle him too much. ... I think Dan is well-respected. He had a great career here. I don't think anyone needs any extra motivation in this league to come back and kind of say, `Hey, I told you so.' Dan's a professional.''

Kickers have become such a reliable commodity that their 86.7 percent success rate thus far would be an all-time high. Keep in mind, though, that the percentage was higher at this time a year ago, 87.7, and tailed off to 83.9 as the weather got worse and footballs became harder to kick for distance or accuracy.

So far in 2013, four kickers are perfect on field goals: Folk, Suisham, St. Louis' Greg Zuerlein and Denver's Matt Prater. Folk has the most, 16.

That's not a significantly higher number than in other seasons, and only two kickers have gone through an entire schedule without a miss, Minnesota's Gary Anderson in 1998 (35 for 35), and Indianapolis' Mike Vanderjagt in 2003 (37 for 37). Neither got to the Super Bowl in those years.

With coaches so confident in their kickers, they are willing to ''settle'' for the 40-plus field goals late in games, especially when their offense can run down the clock and not allow the opponent any time to respond.

''We have `Folk Hero' and we thought he could pop one on them,'' Jets coach Rex Ryan said. ''At the end of the day, we believe in our guy. He's a great kicker.''

And what instructions do these kickers need?

''I just thought, `Kick it through those yellow things,''' Carpenter said.

Seems nearly ever kicker is doing it to win games this year.

---

AP Sports Writers Dennis Waszak Jr. in New York, Joe Kay in Cincinnati and John Wawrow in Buffalo, N.Y., contributed to this report.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Texans - Team News
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
According to HoustonTexans.com, there's a "decent chance" Jadeveon Clowney (knee)... "He feels good," coach Bill O'Brien said Monday. "Well see how it goes this week in practice. We'll be able to make a determination pretty soon about whether...
Oct 21 3:58PM Read More
Garrett Graham - TE
Garrett Graham caught two passes for 24 yards in the Texans' Week 7 loss to the Steelers. Graham was targeted three times, but dropped the other. It can be considered one of Graham's better statistical games of the season, which obviously means he's nowhere near...
Oct 20 11:31PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson caught five passes for 77 yards in the Texans' Week 7 loss to the Steelers on... Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins each saw a team-high nine targets. There was nothing special about Johnson's night. His biggest play was a 24-yard grab on a deep in route in...
Oct 20 11:25PM Read More
DeAndre Hopkins - WR
DeAndre Hopkins caught six passes for 108 yards in the Texans' Week 7 loss to the Steelers on... Hopkins and Andre Johnson each saw a team-high nine targets. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw it to whichever receiver was working against embattled Steelers CB Cortez Allen. ...
Oct 20 11:16PM Read More
Alfred Blue - RB
Alfred Blue rushed for 14 yards on five carries and caught an 11-yard touchdown in the Texans'... Blue was the vulture on the opening-drive 11-yard score after Arian Foster managed 59 rushing yards to get the Texans near the goal line. Foster is an every-down back,...
Oct 20 11:09PM Read More
Ryan Fitzpatrick - QB
Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 21-of-32 passes for 262 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception... Fitzpatrick played well for much of the first half, leading the Texans on three consecutive scoring drives to open the game. It was a train wreck thereafter. One play...
Oct 20 10:56PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster rushed for 102 yards on 20 carries in the Texans' 30-23, Week 7 loss to the... Foster got off to a blazing start, rushing for 59 yards on the Texans' 94-yard opening touchdown drive, but was vultured by Alfred Blue for the 11-yard touchdown catch to...
Oct 20 10:47PM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
Jadeveon Clowney (knee) is inactive for Monday night's Week 7 game against the Steelers. Clowney's lateral agility wasn't where the Texans wanted it to be in pre-game warmups. He's been out since undergoing knee surgery after Week 1. Whitney Mercilus is...
Oct 20 6:09PM Read More
DeAndre Hopkins - WR
DeAndre Hopkins (hand) is probable for Week 7. The Texans listed Hopkins on the injury report, but his status was never in doubt. He'll be a WR3 for Monday night against the Steelers.
Oct 18 2:54PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster (groin) is probable for Monday night's game against the Steelers. Foster was limited on Thursday, but practiced in full the last two days. He should have another heavy workload against a Steelers defense that's allowing 4.4 yards per carry...
Oct 18 2:48PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson (ankle) was upgraded to full in Saturday's practice and is listed as probable for... Johnson is good to go for Monday night's matchup with the Steelers. He's Rotoworld's No. 15 receiver this week.
Oct 18 2:39PM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney (knee) is listed as questionable for Monday night's game against... Clowney got in two limited practices this week, but said he still "can't run laterally." He could be held out in an attempt to get fully healthy for Week 8. If...
Oct 18 2:20PM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney (knee) returned to practice Friday. It was Clowney's first practice since undergoing knee surgery in Week 1. He's expected to be a game-time decision for Monday night. Clowney will likely be on a limited snap...
Oct 17 6:08PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster (groin) was upgraded to full in Friday's practice. Foster suffered a groin injury in last Thursday's loss to the Colts, but his Week 7 status isn't in doubt. He should be fine for Monday night against the Steelers.
Oct 17 6:02PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson (ankle) remained limited in Friday's practice. The Texans are limiting Johnson's practice reps, but he's expected to play on Monday night. Johnson is Rotoworld's No. 15 receiver this week.
Oct 17 5:53PM Read More