Vinatieri’s rare misses, other mistakes prove costly to Colts
INDIANAPOLIS — Adam Vinatieri has been Mr. Automatic for most of his first 23 NFL seasons. When he wasn’t Sunday, fans started wondering openly if the oldest player in the league might be slipping.
The NFL’s career scoring leader missed his first extra point of the season to the right, his first field goal attempt to the left, and a 29-yard field goal attempt in the second half also to the left, all contributing to a season-opening 30-24 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
It’s the first time the 46-year-old Vinatieri has missed two field goals and an extra point in the same game, and only the seventh time he’s missed a field goal inside 30 yards. Naturally, Vinatieri blamed himself for the loss.
“I feel lousy because the guys played their butts off against a really good Chargers team and they played well enough to win,” he said in the locker room. “I didn’t help them out.”
At times, there have been signs of wear and tear.
Despite dealing with knee tendinitis during the preseason, Vinatieri said last week he felt fine and he refused to blame Sunday’s misses on an injury. His field goal percentage has dipped below 90 percent in six of the last eight seasons and after making 196 consecutive extra points from 2010-14, he’s missed nine since 2015.
Part of the explanation: The league’s decision to move extra points back.
The Colts aren’t worried.
“He has been a really elite level guy and I shouldn’t just say was because he is — I see it every day in practice that he kicks,” coach Frank Reich said Monday. “I have no concerns of anything deteriorating physically and certainly not mentally. He’s one of the toughest guys I’ve ever been around. So no worries.”
The soccer stadium Vinatieri played in Sunday was the 51st of his career, and while it was a bright, sunny day, Vinatieri acknowledged last week he had heard field conditions were a “little rough” during the preseason. He didn’t talk about the field after the game.
He wasn’t the only Colts player to commit a costly mistake.
Rigoberto Sanchez had a punt partially blocked in the first half, leading to a San Diego field goal. Defensive tackle Denico Autry drew a personal foul call on the Chargers’ first field-goal attempt, prompting coach Anthony Lynn to take points off the board. San Diego cashed in on its second chance with a touchdown.
Defensive end Justin Houston was penalized for being offside, negating Kemoko Turay‘s third-down strip sack in the third quarter. Two plays later, Austin Ekeler broke two tackles and scored on a 55-yard TD reception for San Diego.
So while Vinatieri’s missed kicks cost Indy seven points, the other miscues cost the Colts an additional 14 points.
“We have the greatest kicker of all time. He didn’t have a good day,” Reich said. “There were a lot of guys that didn’t. We all own what we put out there. That’s what we talked about in there. In every phase where you look at it, we all made a play, we all missed a play or two — that cost us.”
Indy’s pass rush was a big question coming into the season. It looked pretty good Sunday. The Colts recorded four sacks and consistently forced Philip Rivers off his mark in the pocket.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Pass coverage. Rivers threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns, completing nine passes of 16 yards or longer.
RB Marlon Mack. He carried 25 times for a career-high 174 yards and had the longest TD run of his career, 63 yards. Reich’s goal: a top-five rushing offense. Mack might make it a reality.
TE Eric Ebron. A year ago, he led all tight ends with 13 TD catches. Only three balls were thrown his way Sunday, and he caught one for 8 yards. A potential TD catch became an incompletion when he didn’t catch it cleanly.
WR Devin Funchess. Reich said the big receiver has already had surgery for his broken collarbone and is on injured reserve. He was injured while trying to make a diving catch in the end zone late in regulation. Reich said he expects Funchess to return this season.
120.7 — quarterback Jacoby Brissett was 21 of 27 for 190 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a rating of 120.7 in his first start since December 2017.
The Colts expect Vinatieri to rebound and intend to spend this week cleaning up things in all three areas before visiting Tennessee.