The NFL is a quarterback driven league. Everyone loves seeing star receivers catch deep balls. It’s exciting to watch great running backs make huge runs. Defence wins championships. All of these things are true but make no mistake; kickers matter.
In the NFL they are often viewed as an afterthought. However, let’s look at the stats. Since 2015, 15 percent of regular season games have ended with a scoring margin of exactly three points. By far the most frequent points differential in the league. Coincidentally, that’s also the exact number of points for a field goal.
How Accurate Are They?
NFL kickers practise their craft time and time again. While the snap and hold are important, the motion of the kicker is so committed to muscle memory it becomes almost automatic. As such, the top kickers in the league are upwards of 80%. Even accounting for just field goals at this rate, and based on 2 field goals a game, that’s a significant 81.6 points a season.
Kickers that aren’t producing consistently are rapidly replaced. And whilst there seems to be a supply of players ready to jump into the role, the great kickers (and even the very good) are worth their weight in gold and often have long careers. Gary Anderson, Morten Andersen, Jason Hanson and Adam Vinatieri are among the best to have played and their careers spanned decades. The best of all time? Read on to find out.
Week 5 case study
This week alone, 5 of the 16 NFL games played (31.25%) were decided by 3 points. Despite losing 29-30, the Raiders were kept in the game thanks to an impressive 3 from 3 field goal performance from Daniel Carson.
The Colts’ matchup at against the Broncos, whilst terrible to watch, was decided by kickers. Chase McLaughlin kicked three field goals in regulation before kicking a fourth to win the game 12-9 in overtime. Meanwhile, Brandon McManus converted three of his four attempts. McLaughlin was voted AFC special teams player of the week.
Browns’ 2022 draft pick and kicker Chase York missed two field goals whilst Chargers’ kicker Taylor Bertolet, who was making his NFL debut, guided all three of his attempts through the uprights as the Colts won 30-28.
Kickers matter and so does their health
Injuries to kickers can have a huge effect on a game’s outcome. This was never more evident than in the Eagles versus Cardinals game this week, which featured not one, but two kickers who were replacements for injured players.
Eagles’ kicker, Cameron Dicker, who was named the Week 5 NFC special teams player of the week after his NFL debut, kicked 2 field goals and 2 extra points in his first NFL game. Dicker was only signed to the Eagles’ practice squad earlier in the week as cover for Jamie Elliot. The game finished 20-17 after Cardinals kicker, Matt Ammendola, himself filling in for injured Matt Prater, missed a 43-yard field goal after making an earlier kick.
The most impressive game decided by a field goal this week featured, Justin Tucker. Tucker is the measure by which all other kickers must be measured. On Sunday, he kicked a 43-yard field goal (his fourth of the night!) for to beat the Bengals. It was his 61st consecutive field goals in the 4th quarter or overtime. How important is he late in games? Vital. Through the course of his career, Tucker has made 18 out of 18 field goals within the final minute of regulation or overtime.
Despite the opinion shared by many across the pond, UK fans don’t love the kicking game. We’d much rather see fantastic touchdowns and great defence. However, we do recognise the importance of the position. Kickers matter.