the study of the kicking components within sports

Monday, September 27, 2010

NFL Week Three: the Good, the Bad, & the Redeemed

While two missed kicks that would have won games have been the focus of the media spotlight, there is plenty of kicking news from the third week of the NFL.

Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant has seen more than his share of trials in recent years, both professionally and personally. Yesterday was one of the bright spots. With only two minutes remaining in overtime, his 46 yard field goal gave the Falcons a 27-24 upset win over the defending champion Saints. Bryant commented after the game:
"You take like a Michael Jordan, or anyone in the baseball scenario bottom of the ninth and two outs with the bases loaded or Jordan getting the ball in like the last second of the fourth quarter. You want that ball in your hands.... It’s a good feeling to contribute to a win."
On the previous possession in overtime, New Orleans could have won it, but Garrett Hartley's 29 yard field goal attempt went wide left. He commented afterward:
"It was all me. Everything else was great, perfect. That's my job. When we get the ball down to the 11-yard line, we need to walk out of here with the 'W,' and tonight I did not fulfill that role as part of this team.... It's something I have to strive to get back to being able to do on a regular basis and not this up-and-down roller coaster that I've started off this first three weeks with. They expect me to go out there and do my job, and tonight, on the second kick, I didn't. Bottom line. And that can't happen."
In a similar vein, he also noted:
"It came down to a 29-yard field goal, and I just yanked it left. No ifs, ands or buts about it. It’s clearly my mistake.... It’s back to the drawing board. It’s the highs and lows of being a kicker, and it stinks. I missed a big kick last year [against Tampa Bay] and I was able to learn from it, and I plan on doing the same thing.... You have to let it sting, and it's going to."
For the second week in a row, teams have very successfully played keep away from the Browns' dangerous return man Josh Cribbs. Last week it was Ryan Succop and the Chiefs. This week it was Baltimore. Ravens kicker Billy "Stud" Cundiff commented:
"When you have a top returner in this league, it’s our turn as special teamers to make a difference. [Punter Sam Koch] was trying to put the ball deep down the sideline and far down the field as he could.... [On kickoffs] you try to get the ball to the back of the end zone as far as you can. For us, it was a big challenge. We wanted to make a difference in this game. That’s what we felt what we did."
Washington punter Josh Bidwell injured his hip in pregame warm-ups. Kicker Graham Gano, who serves as the backup punter, got in some quick practice and then handled four punts in the game - one of which was blocked. He assessed his performance:
"I had to watch how many balls I kicked. Josh and [long snapper] Nick [Sundberg] did a good job of kind of pacing me through that.... As far as being comfortable back there, I'm fine. But I think practice-wise I was rusty, and it showed a couple times. I'm disappointed in the way I punted, because I should've done better."
Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski had a busy game of mixed results, hitting three of six field goal attempts. Among the makes was a 54 yarder. One of the misses came on the final play of the game, with the Raiders trailing by one point. He was wide left from 32 yards. Punter and holder Shane Lechler commented afterward:
"I looked up, expected it to split the uprights. It sounded good. Everything was good."
After Cowboys kicker David Buehler missed a field goal in each of his first two games, the Dallas media was clamoring for him to be replaced. After he missed several kicks in practice one day last week, their cries got louder. But first owner Jerry Jones and then later an especially animated head coach Wade Phillips spoke out in support of their kicker. Buehler responded this week against the Texans, hitting a 49 yarder just before half time. Coach Phillips commented after the game:
“It was important for the team. It just proves you can watch a couple of kicks in practice and not know for.... He’s still a young guy, but his percentages are going up and that’s what we’re looking for. He’s got a nice swing. He hits the ball good a high, high percentage of the time. That’s what you’ve got to go on. I’ve seen kickers, really good ones that way, plus he’s got the length. Like I said last week, a 48-yarder, a 49-yarder, the guys out on the street right now are older kickers, might not try it. That’s important too.”
"I just tuned everybody out and do what I had to do. I worked hard and everybody had faith in me and I had faith in myself and I wanted to go out and prove it."

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