Colts' Adam Vinatieri: Longer PATs Boost Kicker Impact In NFL

Once an afterthought, extra-point kicks are no longer a lock. That makes kickers more important, especially coming up in playoffs.

Now that NFL extra-point kicks are 13 yards longer, guess how many have been missed this season?

Fifty-seven.

That’s 49 more than all of last season, when the line of scrimmage for point-after-touchdown attempts was the 2 instead of the 15. Just last week, kickers missed eight PATs, which are 33 or 32 yards depending upon how far back a specialist prefers to line up. This season’s misses surpassed last season after week three, when the count quickly climbed to 14.

Even the Indianapolis Colts’ “Mr. Clutch,” Adam Vinatieri, has contributed a couple misses to the season total. In fairness to the NFL’s oldest player, considered the greatest pressure kicker in league history with two Super Bowl-winning field goals, one extra-point try was blocked when New England’s Jamie Collins leaped over the center and practically ate the ball coming off the kicker’s right foot.

Vinatieri, 42, wasn’t shy about voicing his disapproval of the rule change due to safety concerns after the switch was announced in May. But there’s no doubt the league has succeeded in making this once seemingly automatic endeavor more dramatic.

It’s no longer a gimme.

“Oh, for sure,” Vinatieri said Wednesday. “At one point, they were taking about trying to devalue kickers, or to make them not be such a big factor in the game. Well, if anything, it’s made them a bigger factor in the game.

“For me, we all talked about health and safety issues. That’s kind of more of the underlying thing for me. Extra points, back in the day, they didn’t think that they were ever going to miss, so they didn’t rush as much. Now you see a lot more, a lot more pressure, a lot more stuff, guys trying to do things to block the kick and potentially there’s more risk for injury.”

Not that Vinatieri is sweating the challenge. He’s made 736-of-748 PATs in his 20-year career. He’s missed two extra points in a season just three times. And he’s had just three misses once, his rookie year with the Patriots back in 1996.

The Colts (6-6) are making a Sunday trip to face the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8), whose kicker Jason Myers has missed a league-high six extra points. His issues prompted SB Nation’s Big Cat Country web site to offer some comic relief with a story about how the Jaguars had cut Myers this week and replaced him with the movie dog Air Bud.

But, alas, the multiple missers are many. Eleven of the 32 teams have had at least three. Vinatieri is one of 14 kickers with two misses.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have missed two, but head coach Mike Tomlin has often decided to go for the two-point conversion from the 2-yard line. The Steelers succeeded Sunday night against the Colts, bumping their season stats on going-for-two to seven-of-10.

Another tweak to the rule allows the defense to try to return a blocked kick for two points. The New Orleans Saints became the first to accomplish this last week.

Vinatieri envisions these PAT kicks becoming even more magnified next month, when the pressure intensifies for the playoffs.

“It’s a mid-range field goal now,” he said. “Guys should statistically make a majority of those, but if it’s a bad snap or a bad hold or anything goes wrong whatsoever, it’s more easily missed now.

“Some of those are becoming big plays in the game, where now all of a sudden, there was one that was blocked and returned for two points in the other direction where it never happened like that before. It’s going to be a game-changer now, it has been this year and moving forward for the teams in the playoffs, it’s going to be a big thing.”

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.


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