Good as Gould

The Bears have had many bright spots along the way to a 6-0 record to start the season. And even though the offense has been better than expected and the defense better than ever, the most consistent Midway Monster so far is a special-teamer. Kicker Robbie Gould has been nothing short of sensational and could rewrite the record books by the time he's done.

In 13 games with the Bears last season, Robbie Gould was a pretty good kicker. Not a world-beater by any stretch of the imagination, but he got the job done. Considering Doug Brien started 2005 just 1-of-4 on field goal attempts, Gould was a welcome addition to the ballclub.

Little did the organization know that just one year later, the former Nittany Lion would be on the verge of breaking every significant single-season kicking record in team history.

Gould has gotten off to an incredible start, converting all 18 of his field goal attempts and all 18 of his extra points. He currently leads the NFL in scoring with 72 points, and with the Bears having just had a bye in Week 7, he is still at the top of the list despite several kickers having played one more game. Quarterback Rex Grossman has gotten a lot of credit for the team's ability to finally light up the scoreboard, but Gould has hid the fact that the Bears have bogged down in the red zone at times.

But it is so much more than the flawless footwork in scoring situations that shows how far Gould has come as a player. He had 54 kickoffs last season and only managed one touchback. So far in 2006, he has already recorded six touchbacks on his 42 kickoffs.

Dallas Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells loves to wax poetically about hidden yards during a football game, referring to penalties and special teams. Especially for a defensive-minded squad like the Bears, the ability to pin an opponent back deep after a score is paramount. Not many offenses have the ability to consistently drive the ball 80 yards downfield on Brian Urlacher & Company.

Talented tailbacks and disruptive defensive ends will always get the majority of the press coverage in professional football, but Gould knows that his role is just as important.

"Games in the NFL are decided by field goals, whether it's the first quarter or the fourth quarter," Gould said after the Minnesota game in Week 3. "I just want to go out there every day and do my job."

Although Gould performed admirably last season, he struggled at times with long-distance kicks. He was near perfect from inside 40 yards hitting in 19 out of 20, but he was only able to convert on three of his eight attempts from 40 yards and out. This year, Gould has nailed all eight kicks he's tried beyond 40 yards.

Gould's leg strength is noticeably stronger in 2006, but he doesn't have any sort of specific kicker training regimen that he follows.

"It's the same thing," he said back during training camp. "You know, we do the leg press, the squats, the bench, the curls, the shoulder press, the core. You do the running. Everything (the other players) do, we're out there sweating it out with them."

Whatever he's doing with that right leg of his, it's working.

Gould is currently on pace to shatter Kevin Butler's single-season scoring record of 144 points that he set as a rookie in 1985. The 31 field goals Butler made that season, another Bears record, is also in jeopardy. If he keeps going at the rate he's going, Gould will boot 48 field goals and score 192 points.

Not only would those two totals break franchise records, but they would also eclipse the all-time NFL marks. Arizona's Neil Rackers converted 40 field goals last season, while Green Bay's Paul Hornung scored 176 points - 15 TDs, 41 PATs, and 15 FGs - way back in 1960. Elite company to say the least.

And since he's having such a remarkable season, does he ever secretly hope that the offense will sputter near the goalline so he can put up another three-pointer?

"I'll kick all extra points. That doesn't bother me at all. That means we're scoring a lot of touchdowns (and) winning a lot of games hopefully."

A 6-0 record in the standings will certainly attest to that.

JC


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