Janikowski reflects on record-tying kick
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP)
When Sebastian Janikowski lined up for a record-tying 63-yard field goal attempt there was little doubt he had the leg to get it there in the thin air of Denver.
The Oakland Raiders ran the ball up the middle on the previous play for no gain just to set him up on the left hash mark. The Broncos didn't even put a returner in the end zone in case the ball came up short.
It didn't. The ball cleared the crossbar with a little room to spare, putting Janikowski's name in the record book alongside Tom Dempsey and Jason Elam with the longest field goals in NFL history.
''I'm excited. I didn't sleep last night, talking to my wife, friends calling. I was waiting a long time - 12 years,'' Janikowski said Wednesday. ''Only two other guys have done it. Dempsey and Jason Elam. It's an honor, but I always want to break it.''
The most impressive part is that he didn't hit the ball square so he could hit one even longer if the situation was right.
Janikowski said he thought he could hit one from 74 or 75 yards in the thin air of Denver and probably from about 68 closer to sea level. He hit from 70 yards in warmups with plenty of room to spare. He has gone even longer in previous trips to Denver or on the training camp field in Napa when he got a ball flush, according to holder Shane Lechler.
''He didn't hit it good at all. I thought he mis-hit it, he thought he miss-hit it,'' Lechler said. ''But still it was enough to carry it there.''
The record-tying boot might not have even been the most impressive for Janikowski in his career. In December 2009, Janikowski hit a 61-yarder that barely cleared the crossbar on a cold day in Cleveland.
He has 21 career field goals of at least 50 yards, including a 59-yarder last year against Indianapolis and a record 57-yarder in overtime to beat the New York Jets in 2008.
''Cleveland was the hardest one,'' he said. ''I mean, it was cold, and it was snowing a little bit. But in Cleveland I hit it solid. This one I didn't hit it solid.''
Janikowski has had a couple of chances to break the record, falling well short of a 76-yard attempt in 2008 against San Diego in Lane Kiffin's final game as Raiders coach and hitting the right upright on a 64-yard attempt late in the first half against Houston the previous season.
Lechler said he wasn't tempted at all to spot the ball on the 46-yard line to make it a 64-yard attempt for the record because the situation was too important with Oakland on top 13-3.
''We were a full yard in front of it, completely. There was no hesitation,'' Lechler said. ''Maybe if the score had been last year's score (35-7 at halftime) but not in that situation.''
Janikowski started getting ready as soon as Matt Giordano intercepted a pass at the Oakland 24 with 24 seconds left in the half. A facemask penalty on Kevin Vickerson moved the ball out to the 39 and a 16-yard pass to Marcel Reece got the Raiders in position at the Denver 45.
Coach Hue Jackson then called for a run up the middle that netted no gain but put Janikowski on his preferred left hash mark for the record-tying kick.
''I knew he's going to try a long one. He'd been talking about it all week, he's going to give me a chance,'' Janikowski said. ''Every time we cross the 50-yard line I warm up anyway because you never know what's going to happen. But Denver, you know, that's the different story.''
Janikowski has been at his best so far this season at age 33. He hit a pair of 57-yarders off the infield dirt at the Coliseum in each direction during preseason and then the big kick in Denver.
He credits the success to being in better shape and in a better mindset.
''Just do more weights, work out with those guys here,'' he said. ''I think I've gotten more relaxed. I know that I've been making long field goals and we're going to try long field goals and I feel more relaxed out there.''
Janikowski's ability on long kicks impacts the way opposing teams have to defend the Raiders late in the half or game. While most kickers don't get into range until their team crosses the 40-yard line, Janikowski is a threat from much deeper.
''Don't let them get to the 50, especially if there's any wind at all,' Buffalo coach Chan Gailey said. ''You can't assume that he's going to make every one of those but, again, you can't discount it, as well. So, if they get to the 50, you start getting nervous.''
Notes: The Raiders had officials at practice after committing 15 penalties in the opener. ... TE Kevin Boss returned to practice for the first time since spraining his left knee on Aug. 20 in an exhibition game against San Francisco. ... WR Jacoby Ford (hamstring), S Michael Huff (groin), DT Richard Seymour, WR Louis Murphy (hamstring), S Mike Mitchell (knee) all missed practice.
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