the study of all things kicker related

Sunday, January 5, 2014

NFL Wild Card: Shayne Graham Kicks Saints to Win

In yesterday's Wild Card Game, Saints kicker Shayne Graham hit four field goals (36, 46, 35 & 32 yards). The latter came on the final play of the game and gave New Orleans a 26-24 win over Philadelphia.
"Hit it pure. Stroke the ball clean and hit it pure. It's really just like any golfer that's lining up to play a playoff hole. They've got to hit their drive pure, they've got to hit their approach shot pure, they've got to hit the putt pure. ... That's just the term for perfect. You hit it and you hit it pure."
Graham had spent the first 14 games of the NFL season unemployed.
"You're hanging out on a Sunday and you go somewhere to dinner and you see a game on TV, you don't want to watch it because you're not playing. When you finally get your opportunity, all of a sudden you can put SportsCenter back on, you can watch all the NFL you want, because you're once again in it and you don't have to resent it at all."
With only two game remaining in the regular season, the saints decided to release Garret Hartley. Graham ended up winning the job.
"It was tough. Throughout the year it was tough. I had never gone this late in the season and not been on a team. I got workouts from a lot of teams and I was told, 'We are going to give our guy another chance. We'll just see what happens.' Thankfully not a lot of kickers got hurt this year, but it was just slow. But as you see it's a marathon, not a sprint."
Weather conditions (cold and windy) in the game were not ideal for kicking. Eagles kicker Alex Henery missed a 48 yard field goal attempt in the second quarter and saw his final kickoff returned 39 yards to give the Saints a short field on their game winning drive.
“The ball is not going to travel as far on a cold day. There’s no excuse – just miss something like that. I have to be better there, help the team out. It just shows that every point matters in a game like this....

I thought I hit the last kickoff pretty good, actually, going into the wind there. It’s just science. The ball doesn’t fly as well in cold weather. You could tell both kickers were going about goal line to the five-yard line [in the south end zone]. That’s kind of what you get. You have to work with it. I’m not sure. It just got outside of us. It got out, I guess you could say.”
Following the game, Shayne Graham said of his game winner:
"I didn't doubt it for a second, felt comfortable and confident, and luckily I got bombarded on the field after the play and it was a great feeling....

As a kicker, this is what you live for, a chance to contribute to a big win like this. The guys worked so hard for this and it's a great feeling to give them the win they deserve." 
Graham also elaborated on the fact that he has not been with the team very long:
"It feels really good, especially when it's a do-or-die situation. Sometimes you can kind of want that easy way out, want your team to win a blowout. But sometimes you can get a special feeling when you are part of something your team puts together and get the win and the points that you score are the difference. The way our offense drove the ball down the field it was beautiful. How could I not draw confidence watching those guys drive the ball down the field?... If I had been here for 14 years or if I'd been here for one game, my job is the same thing so that is all that really mattered. I've been here for three weeks I guess, and I feel like I've been adopted into a family. It's just a really comfortable, tight group here."

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