Kicker Nick Folk: Bright spot in dim season
A good kick can be a team's saving grace. Nick Folk has been just that for the Jets, using his right leg to give them an edge when called upon.
In a season in which special- teams play has been a nightmare for coordinator Mike Westhoff, Folk has been nearly perfect.
"I'm still just trying to concentrate on what I'm trying to do, but have fun at the same time," he said this week. "Have a great time out there and not put too much pressure on myself where a missed kick is the end of the world. Just move on and get the next one right."
Folk started the season 12-for-12 before going 1-for-2 in a Week 8 loss to Miami. He was 14-of-17 entering the game against the Patriots Thursday night at MetLife Stadium. He is 3-for-3 on attempts of 50 yards or longer, including two in last week's 27-13 win at St. Louis.
Folk made two 51-yarders against the Rams in the first half, becoming only the second Jet to hit twice from beyond 50 in the same game. Pat Leahy connected from 53 and 52 yards in 1985.
Of Folk's 13 kicks from 50-plus yards, eight have come with the Jets. Not bad for a guy who had to prove his worth in training camp.
The arrival of kicker Josh Brown was a way for Westhoff to push Folk, who made 76 percent of his field-goal attempts in 2011. The Jets were looking for more consistency, especially down the stretch. Westhoff needed to be convinced Folk still was the man for the job.
Folk said he wasn't worried. He made it clear in camp that he was here to stay. Since then, he's been on the money. Folk, who made 19 of 25 last season, said his improved accuracy is due partly to improved attention to detail.
"As a team, we're not putting ourselves in crazy position to kick field goals," he said. "Last year, I had six misses, I think three of them were beyond 50. I think there's a more constant focus day in and day out.
"Just trying to concentrate on the minute details that go into kicking: from how I hit the ball, to how I start -- where the snap is, where the hold is. I'm paying a lot closer attention to that stuff."
Though the Jets were only 4-6 entering Thursday night, Folk's accuracy has provided a lift. His 33-yarder produced a Week 3 overtime victory over the Dolphins. Nevertheless, Folk doesn't like to think the outcome rests solely on his leg.
"It doesn't necessarily end or start with what I do," he said. "If we are down three or less, defense needs to get a stop and the offense has to get the ball and they know they have to move it. And then we'll either go kick it or score a touchdown. And I think that's the attitude of this team: We're going to support everyone. It's a full team in here."
That's why he was frustrated when he missed from 44 yards late in the game against the Rams. The Jets already were up 27-13, but Folk still was peeved his wide-left attempt was the result of "a little mechanical error.
"I hit it, thought 'OK, it's good,' looked up and saw it kind of tailing to the left and said, 'C'mon, stay straight.'
"I was more upset about that than anything else after the game. Upset I put the team in the position I did. We were only up by 14, but we could've gone up 17 and put it out of reach."
So 14 points wasn't enough?
"You want to do your part every time you go out there," Folk said. "Mark [Sanchez] wants to complete every pass even though sometimes it's smart to throw the ball away. Shonn Greene, I'm sure, wants to get seven, eight yards a carry every time, even though he can't do that because the defense is in the right place at the right time.
"It's frustrating when you can't do it, but you just have to put the last play behind you and go on to the next one."