Other than Santos, bad week for kickers

NEW YORK (AP) All plaudits to Cairo Santos of the Chiefs for making seven field goals Sunday. At least someone was able to kick the ball straight this week.

Santos’ club record in a 36-21 loss at Cincinnati – that’s right, all the points were on field goals, not three touchdowns – stands out even more when compared to his peers.

Not only were field goals a chore, particularly in crunch time, but the longer extra points were problematic, with four missed. There have been four or more misses every week this year after not having more than three in any week from 2000-2014.

Unlike in college, where so many kickers are untested or simply not reliable, NFL coaches often play for the winning field goal. It’s a risky philosophy, particularly now with the extra point moved back to about 33 yards.

”All the kicks are tough,” said Steelers veteran long snapper Greg Warren, ”and now that you’re taking (PATs) back, you’re taking the one you could always count on out of the equation. I think it does shake it up. I mean, it’s not just one kick you’re changing, it’s the mental makeup of everything.

”When that kick gets a little tougher, that job gets tougher. I think it’s definitely going to affect guys more than we anticipate, and it’s interesting how the league reacts to it, if it’s what they were looking to do, to achieve.”

Long-time placekicker Jay Feely, now retired, tweeted that extra points used to be like warmup kicks, and now that they are more challenging, his former peers are struggling more than ever. It’s beyond a mindset, too.

”You didn’t have to worry about the results (it was a given) which allowed you to focus on your form and get grooved-in during a game,” Feely wrote about the short extra points.

”Somewhat of a confidence builder. Like throwing a couple of screens early for a QB. Now the pressure is bigger on Ex Pts than even FGs because there is zero room for error (100 percent success is demanded). The pressure intensifies and it negatively impacts FG performance as well.”

That certainly was the case this week. It wasn’t the worst kicking performance in NFL annals, but it was a pretty sorry display.

According to STATS, 57 of 71 field goals (80 percent) were made in Week 4. That’s not awful if most of the failures were from long distance, which they weren’t.

Only 81.8 percent of the kicks from inside 45 yards were made this week, way lower than the previous three weeks: 88 percent, 89.2 percent and 90.6 percent. That’s the lowest in a week since the final week of 2012 (75.6 percent), when weather was a factor, too.

Also, take away Santos’ perfecto, and the numbers sink.

Jacksonville’s Jason Myers, a first-year kicker from Marist who beat out veteran Josh Scobee, missed from 53 yards. OK, we’ll give him that.

Except that his try with 6 seconds left sailed right, but the Colts had called a timeout. So he got a mulligan – and sailed it right, as well.

In overtime, he missed from 48 to the left.

”I put them both down the middle,” Myers said. ”I shucked them both well. One just kind of went off to the right on me; one kind of turned left on me. Just trying to make it. Try not to have it in my head about the other one. I wanted that one to go in, but got a second chance. It just didn’t go in.”

Scobee, with Pittsburgh, had it even worse last Thursday night, twice botching field goals that could have salted away a win over archrival Baltimore. He missed from 49 and 41 yards, the Steelers lost – and Scobee lost his job.

Tampa Bay rookie Kyle Brindza failed from 43 and 29 yards. Yes, a kick even shorter than an extra point – and he missed one of those, too, in a loss at Carolina. Brindza, out of Notre Dame, missed three field goals and an extra point during last week’s 10-point loss at Houston.

After strongly backing Brindza following the Texans game, Bucs coach Lovie Smith tempered his support Sunday, and cut Brindza on Monday.

”We’re not going to start kicking people off in the press conference after the game,” he said. ”I’m disappointed in Kyle’s play today; we have to do a better job with extra points, with field goals when we need ’em. Those are critical parts of the game; we need to get more production from there.”

Someone else will try to provide it.

Such perennially dependable booters as Mason Crosby (44 yards), Nick Folk (40), Blair Walsh (38) and Dan Carpenter (30) also misfired.

And the Saints’ new kicker, Zach Hocker, clanged what would have been the winning 30-yarder Sunday night off the goalpost.

At least New Orleans won in overtime, though on a long TD pass. Sean Payton wasn’t likely to turn to Hocker again.

AP Pro Football Writer Dave Campbell and Sports Writers Will Graves and Fred Goodall contributed to this story.

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