Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Sure Thing Kickers Becoming More Reliable in Final Minutes

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Sure Thing Kickers Becoming More Reliable in Final Minutes

Article excerpt

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. …

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