Not much gets said about kickers in the NFL, but when they are brought up, often they are the unsung heroes who helped win a game just by doing their job and even more often they are the villains when they don’t make those critical FG and XP kicks. For the uninitiated, XP is an extra point kick taken after a touchdown and often will be highly important in either keeping pace in an evenly matched shootout or keeping you in front if the opponent kicks field goals to keep close. FG are field goals worth 3 points.
Kickers are expected to make kicks and when they do, there is little fanfare because they did the job they were supposed to do. When they miss though…oh there is hell to pay.
It’s not all doom and gloom for kickers and some, like Colts legend Adam Vinatieri make the position their own with flair and high levels of accuracy and consistency. But even the GOAT of kickers had his detractors in his final season for Indy when his accuracy started to wane.
It’s a position that has high levels of expectation. “You had one job” will often be a jibe thrown at a kicker who misses one. Bear in mind they have approximately 1 second between the snap, the ball being placed (laces out please) two to three steps in and strike it cleanly. All while a special teams defensive line is trying to get through and physically stop you or throw arms and hands up to try and block the kick. Not to mention the time always ticking down, crafty timeout calls making you do it over again and often these plays being made or asked to be made in the dying seconds of a quarter, the game or even overtime. So the big one is PRESSURE.
Meet Harrison Butker, the kicker for Kansas City Chiefs. The reigning champs. He today kicked a franchise tying longest ever field goal during the game against the Chargers from 58 yards. Plenty of kickers around the league miss kicks from half that distance (and don’t always keep their jobs for that matter).
In the final 2 mins of the 4th quarter, KC were down 17-20 and had to drive and Mahomes took it out of bounds around the 10 yard line with 3 seconds left and used their last timeout. 4th and 1 with 3 seconds on the clock, it’s Butker time. Out he comes and lines it up, in fairness it’s not one anybody expects him to miss. Butker doesn’t miss. He kicked the game tying field goal in the last 3 seconds to take it OT.
In OT Kansas City pressed LA and held them in their own half so, on 4th and 1, LA has a choice – do they go for it and hope to convert the first down (at the risk of failing and handing the game to KC in excellent field position) or do they punt and hope to stop the champs’ offense. LA punted. Scary option bringing that offense back on the field. Mahomes drove them back over the 50 but couldn’t quite convert the 1st down. The choices are either go for it and risk converting the 1st down, punt like LA did, or bring out super boot Butker. 4th and 1 and they bring Butker out to kick the game winning field goal from 53 yards. He’s already kicked one from 58 yards today so why not.
Everyone is backing him in. LA tried to call a timeout just before the snap and they snap came first (so no timeout to put him off) but one of the KC linemen Allegretti flinched before the snap and they called a false start. 5 yard penalty. Andy Reid’s COVID face mask must have been fogging up he was that mad and poor Allegretti knew it, had his hand up in an apology and a look on his face like the kid that knows he’s gonna be grounded.
Now Butker has to kick it from his franchise record tying distance of 58 yards. Again.
Just before the snap LA gets their timeout – Butker makes the kick from 58 yards but it doesn’t count because of the timeout.
So poor old Butker has to do it from 58 yards a third time. No sweat, he just nails it again from 58 yards. I’m betting if there was another call or timeout to stop him, he’d have done it a fourth time too.
He is one of the best kickers in the NFL, if not, the best. Harrison Butker, you have my Jordan Award this week.