NFL kickers tighten up in the playoffs
The New York Jets are in the AFC Championship Game, and the reason is obvious. Field-goal defense. The Jets beat Cincinnati 24-14 and San Diego 17-14, and two of the NFL’s better kickers, Shayne Graham and Nate Kaeding, went a combined 0-of-5 on field goals. Only one of those kicks was from longer than 40 yards.
Truth is, NFL kickers have not delivered under pressure this post-season. Kickers are 15 of 26 on field goals in the playoffs, a 63.4 percent efficiency that is a far cry from the regular season. In 2009, NFL kickers made 81.3 percent of their kicks, which was the lowest since 2005 (81.0) but not all that far off the record 84.5 percent in 2008.
But it’s not the number of misses. It’s the length of the misses. It’s obvious the playoffs are a different animal.
The Chargers fought for survival against the Jets, but Kaeding missed field goals of 36 and 40 yards in the fourth quarter, and San Diego lost 17-14. He had made 69 straight from 40 yards or closer. This season, he had made 91.4 percent of his kicks; for his career, 87.2. Yet in the playoffs, Kaeding now is eight of 15 in his career.
A week earlier, the Jets beat Cincinnati 24-14, with Graham missing in the fourth quarter from 35 and 28 yards. Graham this season had made 23 of 28 and has a career percentage of 85.2.
Arizona’s Neil Rackers missed from 34 yards at the end of regulation, allowing Green Bay to make it into overtime, where the Cardinals won 51-45 on a defensive touchdown.
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