Cairo Santos missed from everywhere: wide left from 50 yards, wide right from 36 yards, blocked from 33 yards and wide left again from 53 yards.
That’s four missed kicks in a brutal 14-7 loss to the Bills on Sunday. By Monday, he was cut and replaced by Cody Parkey, who was the face of kicking frustration last season when he double-doinked the potential game-winning kick in the Bears’ 16-15 wild-card loss to the Eagles. The Titans willingness to resort to Parkey is a testament to how scarce the market is for kickers these days.
Jets fans have not forgotten the heartbreaking 17-16 loss to the Bills in Week 1 that was decided by a missed field goal and extra point by Kaare Vedvik. Buccaneers kicker Matt Gay missed two extra points and a short field goal on the final play of a 32-31 loss to the Giants. Seahawks vs. Rams ended with a missed kick from Greg Zuerlein. 49ers kicker Robbie Gould missed three field goals on Monday against the Browns.
Through the first five weeks of the 2019 season, kickers have made 94% of extra points and 80% of field goals attempts. Extra points success has been steady at 94% since the distance was moved from 20 yards to 33 yards in 2015.
However, field goal success has decreased this season.
Looking deeper, we see that the issue lies mainly with long field goals over 50 yards, which account for 15% of attempts this season. Attempts from 50+ yards have a 50% success rate this season versus a rolling five year average success rate of 63%.
Teams are also attempting fewer kicks this year: Attempts from under 40 yards are projected to be down 4%, attempts from 40 to 49 yards are down 2%, and attempts from 50 or more yards are down 6%, which is an aggregate projected decrease of 4%.
This decline could be linked to coaches’ waning confidence in their kickers, as well as the rise of advanced in-game analytics urging playcallers to go for it in 4th-and-short situations.
Kickers can have some of the longest careers, but some of the league’s preeminent kickers are in the later stages of their careers: Steven Hauschka is 34, Stephen Gostkowski (currently on IR) is 35, and Adam Vinatieri is 46.
The dearth of accurate kickers was palpable before the season began. The Jets preseason kicker drama was paralleled only by the Bears desperation, resulting in a highly-publicized competition to replace Parkey. Head coach Matt Nagy was particularly fixated on players’ accuracy from 43 yards, the distance of the infamous miss during the wild-card round.
Gould’s meltdown on Monday in the 31-3 victory over the Browns did not have an effect on the outcome of the game, but tighter games are coming for the 49ers. Kicker accuracy could be a deciding factor in a tight NFC West division race where the 49ers (4-0) will have to play both the Seahawks (4-1) and Rams (3-2) twice this season. It has already decided one NFC West showdown: Week 5’s Seahawks-Rams game ended 30-29, with Zuerlein’s miss from 44 yards wide right on the Rams final possession. The loss dropped the Rams to third place in the division behind the Seahawks and 49ers. They take on Gould and the undefeated 49ers at home this Sunday.
Maybe it is time a team gave Carli Lloyd a call.
– The two Jets kickers have combined to complete just one field goal on three attempts this season. They are on track to attempt 12 field goals all year, which is the lowest in the league.
– Justin Tucker (BAL), Josh Lambo (JAC), Jake Elliott (PHI), and Chris Boswell (PIT) are the only kickers still perfect on the season.
– Kliff Kingsbury’s “Air Raid” Cardinals offense has resulted in a 77% increase in field goal attempts versus the previous five years, and an 81% increase in field goals made. They are first in the league in attempts with 17 so far and are on track for 54 attempts, the most in 10 years and just ahead of the 2011 49ers and 2009 Cowboys (both attempted 52 kicks).