Putting the boot in

As we enter the penultimate weekend that will ultimately decide who we will be merrily watching on the 2nd of February, I thought it was time to sing the praises of a position oft over looked in highlights, the kicker. Such a role they have played this season that on numerous occasions even my fellow Gentleman Dan has started to remember their names. What follows is merely my gin and tweed induced ravings on kickers.

I have the impression from some fans of the sport and even some commentators that kickers need not be remembered and possibly not needed at all. The kicker does appear to hark back to the rugby football roots of the game. This season has reminded me of rugby union often with the prevalence of field goals (certainly the Giants memorably won a game purely on field goals, one of their first wins of their season), with teams opting for field goals just to keep the score board ticking over (the 49ers have certainly done this, for example six points in first quarter against the Panthers). But unlike Johnny Wilkinson or Chris Paterson (or Dan Carter), kickers are often forgotten or if they have maybe just a slight drop in performance, dropped (thinking of Hartley formerly of the Saints and the hapless though occasionally excellent Billy Cundiff).

Yes I do remember kickers and this weekend the names of Matt Prater, Steven Hauschka, Stephen Gostkowski and Phil Dawson should be forefront in your minds as these guys actually are top kickers. Admittedly if you are quite fastiduous about fantasy football you will probably be familiar with many kickers.

Even in last years Superbowl, Justin Tucker played a key role in securing the Ravens victory (even with a false goal attempt and running with the ball). Admittedly Tucker could not save the Ravens season this time, even scoring 36% of their 320 points and a record breaking 61 yard field goal. The kicker often saves the day, having to keep a cool head in the dying seconds of a game, briefly mentioned in highlights then forgotten, with the play setting up the 3 point field goal often focused upon. The Saints have relied on two kickers and both have been clutch when the time has needed them to be.

And that is the thing, kickers have to keep a cool head at all times (and try not to kick the holders hand off as well as getting the ball between the posts). Brady understood the importance (well I like to think he did), in the Patriots game against the Colts, he was the holder for one of the PATs.

As a Colts fan, I really appreciate the fact that we have the record holding Adam Vinatieri (he now holds the record for the most number of PATs in the playoffs). He has probably been a bit more consistent than even the fabled Andrew Luck in terms of keeping the team in the game, and for about 7 weeks, the only point scorer in the first quarter.

So why do I mention kickers now? Well both the 49ers and the Seahawks rely on their kickers to keep the score board ticking, slowly ratcheting up the pressure on the opposing team. The games are often not high scoring, due to the game management style both teams adopt and the grinding nature of their defences. With these teams it appears that the early field goals set them up for the win. You may scoff at this but the Seahawks have scored 36 field goals (108 points) in total so far (regular and post season combined, with Hauschka making 100% of his attempts in the post season). In the regular season field goals constituted 25% of the Seahawks total points. The 49ers have scored 38 field goals in total (Dawson with a 100% success in the post season), and lead the way in the post season with 6 field goals. In the regular season field goals constituted 24% of their total points. So expect both teams to rely on field goals to give them game position if their respective running games cannot break through either defence.In both these teams, that is one man, be it Hauschka or Dawson, scoring a quarter of their teams points. Kind of important.

The Patriots lead both these teams in the number of field goals (so relying on Gostkowski a lot), with 38 in the regular season (114 points or 26% of their total points), though they did not need to score any against a Colts defence that was just happy to allow them run with the ball. For the Broncos, with that offense, they have not relied on Prater as much, with only 75 of their 606 regular season points (or 12%) coming from Prater’s boot (though with a success rate of 96%, 3% higher than Gostkowski). As such, maybe expect the Patriots to go back to Gostkowski’s feet to keep the Bronco’s on their toes. Afterall the Bronco’s do love a shoot out.

So as well as remembering the likes of Anquan Boldin, Marshawn Lynch, Stevan Ridley and Julian Thomas, maybe add to the list Phil Dawson, Steven Hauschka, Stephen Gostkowski and Matt Prater. They may just get their team to the Superbowl.

Even if I have not convinced you of the importance of kickers, then do at least keep checking our website for our latest articles and our Facebook page and Twitter (@GridironGents) for the latest updates and competitions. If you have any questions, queries or concerns then send us your missive on our Facebook page, Twitter or email us at hellochaps@gridirongentlemen.com. Most of all enjoy what promises to be a weekend of splendid and thoroughly entertaining football.

Toodle pip!