NFL kickers showing their value in playoffs
If the playoffs have demonstrated anything this postseason –- aside from needing spectacular quarterback play -– it’s that the kicking game matters.
That’s probably the reasoning general manager Jason Licht and the Bucs used to package a pile of picks and move into the second round last year to take Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo.
It hasn’t paid off –- not yet, anyway -– for the Bucs. Aguayo missed four of his first eight field goal attempts this season, likely costing them the Rams game when he missed a field goal and an extra point, and finished making only 71 percent of his field goal attempts (22 of 31), which was last in the NFL.
Remember, one more win and the Bucs (9-7) would have broken their playoff drought this season.
Since the league moved the extra-point attempt back to the 15-yard line, making it essentially a 33-yard kick, it’s been a big adjustment. Kickers had a disastrous Week 11, missing 12 PATs, and a season-high 15 FGs were missed in Week 17.
But so far in playoffs, kickers are a perfect 33-of-33 in field goal attempts and 34-of-36 on PATs.
In a remarkable clutch performance, the Packers' Mason Crosby became the first kicker to make two field goals 50 yards or longer in the final two minutes of a postseason game. Twice, his kicks put the Packers ahead, including one as time ran out in a 34-31 win over the Cowboys.
Crosby’s first kick was good from 56 yards, the third-longest field goal in NFL postseason history. The second was the game-winner from 51 yards. It also was the first time Crosby has made multiple 50-yard field goals in a game in his career.
NFL lore is filled with big kicks and big misses. Had Scott Norwood made the 47-yard field goal at the end of Super Bowl XXV against the Giants, the Bills may have gone on to win multiple Lombardi Trophies. How are the Patriots' fortunes different without Adam Vinatieri’s game-tying Snow Bowl field goal against the Oakland Raiders in the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff game?
Dirk Koetter has said Aguayo will have competition next season. The Bucs signed former Liberty kicker John Lunsford, who was in 49ers camp last summer. Lunsford is Division I-AA's career leader with 12 field goals of 50 yards or longer, but oddly has struggled from closer range. A veteran may be added to the mix by training camp.
Picture Aguayo, whose longest field goal was 43 yards last season, lining up for a game-winning field goal in the playoffs. (He did hit the game-winner at Carolina after missing two FGs earlier). In the postseason, there are no mulligans.