- Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Week 4 was an ugly one for NFL kickers.
It began 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 Steelers coach Mike Tomlin to keep his offense on the field for fourth downs in overtime, which twice resulted in turnovers-on-downs. Baltimore won the game 23-20 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 ended Indianapolis’ divisional win streak.Caleb Sturgis, the Eagles’ new kicker, missed a 33-yard field-goal attempt and an extra point as the Eagles went on to lose by three to the Redskins.Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh missed a 38-yarder in what became a Vikings three-point loss to the Broncos.Tampa Bay’s Kyle Brindza missed two field goals and a PAT in a 37-23 loss to Carolina.New Orleans kicker Zach Hocker plunked what would have been a winning 30-yarder straight off the left goal post at the end of regulation. The Saints beat the Cowboys 26-20 in overtime.
As of the Giants game on Sunday, there had been the same number of missed PATs through just 239 attempts as there had been through 2,497 attempts over the past season.
- via NFL
The story of the weekend was the plight of the kicker, and perhaps the pressure of the new extra-point distance (extra points are now snapped from the 15-yard line instead of the 2) can explain why kickers seemed to crumble in the clutch on Sunday.
Former Giants kicker Jay Feely, now a CBS analyst, offered an interesting explanation for the missed kicks. Feely 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 all won on late-game field goals.
The problem, then, is that kickers no longer have easy chip shots for extra 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.