It’s up… and it’s no good! This was the line that was recited far too many times in the first week of the 2022-23 season. Kickers throughout the league made 49 out of 60 field goals, missing 11. On average last season, kickers missed nine field goals per week. The numbers don’t seem very far apart, but the weight of the situations in which these misses occurred made kickers the focal point this week.
We start with two overtime games that accounted for three of the missed field goals and included a crucial missed extra point. In a game that saw reigning Defensive Player of the Year, T.J. Watt, exit with what is expected to be a season-ending pectoral injury, the Steelers managed a 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers’ defense was on full display as their first score of the season came on a Minkah Fitzpatrick pick-six. They went on to force five turnovers: four interceptions and a fumble. The Bengals still managed to make it close, tying the game with two seconds remaining at 20 points apiece. Evan McPherson lined up for the game winning extra point and was met by the hands of Minkah Fitzpatrick blocking the kick and forcing the game into overtime. In overtime, McPherson, who set the franchise record for longest field goal this same day with a 59-yarder in the first quarter, went on to miss a 29-yard field goal due to a high snap. Chris Boswell matched this miss with one of his own, clanking a 55-yard try off the left upright. Boswell, however, got his redemption when he made a 53-yarder on the next Pittsburgh drive, winning the game.
Rodrigo Blankenship lost his job after a 20-20 overtime tie between the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans. Indianapolis played horribly for the majority of this game, trailing 20-3 at the start of the fourth quarter. The Colts rallied, though, tying the game at 20, and that’s where the score would remain. Blankenship missed a 42-yard try after a meticulous, clock-draining drive, leaving little to no time for either team to move the ball down the field and score.
Brian Daboll put his stamp on what seems to be a new culture in New York. The Giants trailed by 13 points at one point in this game but came all the way back to trail by one with one minute remaining. Instead of kicking the extra point and trying their luck in overtime, Daboll decided to attempt the two-point conversion. On a beautifully constructed shovel pass to Saquon Barkley, the Giants took a 21-20 lead. The Tennessee Titans moved the ball effectively and efficiently, setting up Randy Bullock for a 42-yard potential game winner. As the trend would have it this weekend, Bullock pulled the kick left and gave New York its first opening day win in six years.
Broncos Country, let’s ride. Russell Wilson debuted for Denver against his former franchise at Lumen Field in Seattle. The outcome of this game was less about the missed field goal attempt and rather the decision leading up to it. The Seahawks and Geno Smith came to spoil Wilson’s return, and they were successful. Down one point with a minute left and all three timeouts, Denver faced fourth down with five yards to go. Instead of trusting the quarterback the franchise committed 250 million dollars to, new Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett opted for a 64-yard field goal attempt. Brandon McManus had the distance but not the accuracy, and Denver fell to Seattle 17-16.
On the bright side, there were some field goals that changed the outcome of games for the better. In another revenge game, Baker Mayfield faced his old club, the Cleveland Browns, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Unfortunately for Mayfield and the Panthers, rookie kicker Cade York knocked through a 58-yard attempt with eight seconds left on the clock. The Cleveland run game proved supreme and will have to continue to do so with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback.
The Falcons surprised many as they led the New Orleans Saints for the entirety of the game until there were 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter. That’s when Will Lutz was successful on a 51-yard field goal try. The Falcons led by as many as 16 points in this game, with Cordarrelle Patterson rushing for 120 yards and a touchdown. However, the New Orleans receiving core looked fantastic with Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave all bringing in clutch catches.
Finals where Kickers Didn’t Decide the Game:
The Bills came out confident, beginning their season with a 31-10 win over the reigning Super Bowl Champion Rams
The Bears utilized flood-like conditions to slip and slide their way to a 19-10 victory over the 49ers.
The Eagles outlasted the Lions in an offensive dogfight 38-35.
Lamar Jackson threw for three touchdowns as the Ravens cruised past the Jets 24-9.
Carson Wentz flashed back to his 2017 self as the Commanders got their first win under their new name: 28-22 against the Jaguars
Justin Jefferson set a new career high for receiving yards with 184 in a 23-7 domination over reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers
Patrick Mahomes proved he is still himself without Tyreek Hill, throwing for 5 touchdowns in the Chiefs win over the Cardinals 44-21.
The Los Angeles Chargers outlasted the Las Vegas Raiders 24-19, despite Davante Adams racking up 141 yards through the air in his Raiders debut.
Dak Prescott fractured his thumb in a disappointing showing from the Dallas Cowboys in a 19-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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