Kick­ers put ex­cite­ment into PATs with misses

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Barry Wilner

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 no­point­ers. 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 ex­tra­point 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, over­anal­y­sis, 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.

For more NFL cov­er­age: http://w w w.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twit­ter. com/AP—NFL.

GARY LANDERS — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ben­gals kicker Mike Nu­gent (2) misses an ex­tra point at­tempt in the first half Sun­day against the Buf­falo Bills, in Cincinnati. The Bills won 16-12.

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