Kicker Stays Cool, Despite Misses

Ryan Longwell insists that he's not in a slump: "A slump is when you can't hit the broad side of a barn when you're trying to," he says. But the kicker is in his worst stretch since he came to the team in 1997.

Longwell, who entered the season as the NFL's most accurate kicker, has missed five field goal attempts this year, including his last three in a row. By missing from 42 and 51 yards in Sunday's loss to Minnesota, Longwell ran his miss streak to a career-long three straight. Prior to this season, he has never missed two in a row.

Longwell, however, isn't pushing the panic button. He has gone through tougher times, like when he was a sophomore at the University of California when he went 8 for 22. The Bears recruited a kicker for the next season, but Longwell was able to keep his job because the coaching staff overlooked a basic.

"The day before the first game they finally realized that he couldn't kick off the ground because he had a tee in high school," Longwell said. "They said, all right Ryan, you've got your job until this guy gets ready."

Longwell held onto his job and kicked well enough to get tryouts with the San Francisco 49ers and Packers. After being acquired on waivers from the 49ers in '97, he beat out third-round draft pick Brett Conway and the rest is history. Longwell, after missing a total of five field goal attempts all last season, entered this season as the league's all-time most accurate field goal kicker (84.73%, 111 of 131) and with a new multi-million contract.

Through Week 6, Longwell has fallen behind Miami's Olindo Mare as the NFL's all-time most accurate kicker. Mare has made all seven of his attempts this season to raise his career percentage to 84.35. Longwell is 7 of 12 this season, which has lowered his career percentage to 82.52.

Of his five misses this season, two have been because of poor field conditions. He slipped on the muddy turf at Lambeau Field in the season opener and badly missed a 48-yard attempt. He made all three of his attempts against Washington and 2 of 3 against Carolina, despite the ripped up turf at Ericsson Stadium. The turf was so poor at Ericsson, that Longwell fell to the ground as he attempted a 37 yarder. Longwell's current miss streak began with a 47-yard attempt against Baltimore that was short and wide right. He then tacked on two more misses in the climate-controlled Metrodome – a 51-yard attempt in the first quarter and 42-yard attempt in the second quarter.

"It was just one of those days. I had them in college," said Longwell. "You guys have just never seen me do it in the NFL. It's one of those things where we hit the first one well and it went right, as opposed to left, like it normally should. The second one ... who knows what happened? "I kind of analyzed what I've done last year, my approach mentally and physically and didn't see much of a change. I definitely will work on the basics."

Mechanically, Longwell is doing everything right, according to special teams coach Frank Novak. The snaps from Rob Davis and holds by backup quarterback Doug Pederson have been excellent, according to Novak.

Longwell returned to practice Tuesday and made 20 straight attempts. The fact that he is missing when it counts is perplexing. So, the coaching staff is trying to shake him out of it before the Packers' upcoming home game against Tampa Bay on Nov. 4.

"When going to try to create situations during practices during the week where unexpectedly he's got to go and kick a field goal," said Novak. "Just try to help the guy work through this."

Longwell says he is as confident as ever. Novak agrees. If anything, the bye week probably comes at a good time for the kicker. He planned on getting away with his family to relax and golf.

"It's just one of those things. You can't really split hairs about it," Longwell said. "Sometimes these things happen."


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