In recent months, some have pushed the idea of taking the “foot” out of football by eliminating extra-point kicks, which have become virtually automatic in the NFL.
Super Bowl XLVIII placekickers Steven Hauschka of Seattle and Matt Prater of Denver, for instance, have combined to make 421 of 426 PATs in their careers.
Not surprisingly, most NFL kickers are against the removal of an essential part of their job. “I’d like to keep that the way it is,” Hauschka said. “It’s a slippery slope. As soon as you take out that play, you could also take out the kneel-down at the end of the game, that’s also non-exciting.
“So, I just don’t see where you draw the line. Not every play has to be the most exciting play in the game.”
While extra points are mundane, field goals near the end of close games are at the opposite end of the excitement meter. Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood’s “Wide-Right” boot from 47 yards out with eight seconds left allowed the Giants to escape with a 20-19 win in Super Bowl XXV.
Those moments are when kickers earn their keep, so, it came as a surprise in the NFC title game two weeks ago when Hauschka advised Seahawks coach Pete Carroll against sending him out for what would have been a 53-yard field goal attempt with his team trailing San Francisco, 17-13, and facing fourth-and-seven at the 49ers’ 35-yard line.
“As I was jogging out there, I didn’t like the way the wind was,” Hauschka said of conditions at Seattle’s Century Link Field. “It was into the face. I let coach Carroll know that. They called a timeout. I thought we were going to punt it. We ended up throwing a touchdown, so, it worked out.”
Indeed, quarterback Russell Wilson threw what turned out to be the winning touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse on that fourth-down play. That gave Seattle a 20-17 lead on their way to a 23-17 win and relieved whatever postgame pressure Hauschka might have faced, but his decision still took courage at the time.
“I’ve never turned down a kick before,” Hauschka said. “It was an interesting moment for me, but it seemed like the right thing to do. I didn’t question it. There is definitely a good trust relationship between us [Carroll]. Even though I could make that kick, sometimes, you just go off your gut instinct. It was the right decision to make at the time.”