As soon as Pat McAfee received a heads up on the sideline, the free-spirited, fun-loving guy started gazing out at the Lucas Oil Stadium FieldTurf with an unmistakably serious stare.
Time was winding down. The situation was set up for him to be the hero.
McAfee, the Indianapolis Colts’ punter, had a chance to win a game with a long field goal attempt in the final minute Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. The kick was from 64 yards out, but distance has never been an issue for the man known as “Boomstick.” He’s drilled 70-yard field goals in practice.
McAfee said the kick was “three-quarters swing,” so he could be more accurate, and the distance “easily attainable.” The second the football cleared the line, he thought he had made it.
“I thought it was in,” McAfee said, as he stared at that fluttering ball, then watched it start to fade, drifting left, still drifting, and drifting. Uh-oh.
He had waited six years for this moment. Then he missed. Giants win, 27-26.
While it’s just preseason, nobody was more upset in the Colts’ locker room than McAfee. This is a guy who one day hopes to handle all the kicking for this team, field goals, kickoffs and punts. He was re-signed in the offseason for the next five years at about $3 million per season.
And make no mistake, this was a money kick, even in a game that doesn’t count.
“I should have made it,” McAfee said. “It’s a disappointment to the fans and this locker room. We live to fight another day. I’m excited for my next shot.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano won’t hesitate to give him that chance, either. The Colts re-signed veteran and possible future Hall of Fame kicker Adam Vinatieri for two more years in the offseason. But McAfee has the leg for beyond 55 yards.
“We see him make them all the time in practice, so I’ve got great confidence,” Pagano said. “It’s fourth down, I think we had 6 yards to go. We’ve always had it in the back of our minds hoping that the scenario would come up and present itself regardless.”
The Colts blew a 26-0 lead in this game, surrendering 27 fourth-quarter points. But third-string quarterback Chandler Harnish had one last drive.
“We set him up,” Harnish said. “Sixty-four is asking a whole lot from your kicker, but he put a boot on it. It had the distance. If anybody can do it, Pat can do it.”
Added McAfee: “Last season, I think we were 14-of-15 from 60-plus in practice.”
Thinking about the kick, he said, “I should have aimed a little more right.
McAfee suggested the rest of his evening would be miserable, that he probably wouldn’t get much sleep.
“I just wish I would have made it,” he said. “It would have been really cool. We would have had a lot of fun in this locker room, the celebration would have been great. Hopefully they’ll give me another shot because I can’t miss stuff like that.”
That second chance has been guaranteed.
"Before this season’s over,” Pagano said, “he’s going to hit a game-winner form 60-plus yards. I guarantee it."
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.