John Clayton notes that kickers are increasingly being asked to kick incredibly long field goals.
Rob Bironas’ 60-yard field goal that beat the Colts in Week 13 drove home a remarkable change in strategy thanks to the powerful legs of kickers.
Teams that possess kickers capable of connecting from 60-plus yards just have to cross midfield in the final two minutes to have a chance for a victory. In the past, coaches figured getting to the opponent’s 35 was the make-or-break mark for a field goal. Now the 45-yard line is in play, meaning a team pinned around its 20-yard line with 40 seconds left needs to complete only two passes before calling a timeout and getting a chance to win.
It creates a new era of game management that adds new levels of excitement and paranoia to the final seconds of games.
It’s the perfect storm of two positive directions in the game. Since 1998, Manning has been perfecting the no-huddle, two-minute-type offense and spreading it over 60 minutes of football. Manning has gotten it down to a science and can move from almost any part of the field into game-winning field goal range with minimal time left on the clock.
More and more teams use the no-huddle so they have similar opportunities.
The second part of the perfect storm is the kickers. They survived the K-ball challenge, which made them kick new footballs that weren’t rubbed down or specially prepared. Whether it’s improved weight lifting or better coaching, kickers are becoming more powerful by the year.
Coaches will also have to be more careful in how and when they score in the final minutes of a game. Getting a touchdown with 2:30 left to take a two-point lead could lead to defeat because most good quarterbacks can orchestrate a field goal drive to win.
Of course, kickers are a mysterious lot. You never know when they’re going to shank one well inside their range.
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