“Do you not see how insane it is that we rely on kickers for three points when they have nothing to do with football?” Bleacher Report basketball writer Tom Haberstroh said earlier this week. “The game of football is to go from one end of the field to the next. Why is there a 16-and-a-half [foot] beam in the middle of the sky?”
Perhaps he has a point. Sunday seemed like an all-time bad day for placekickers: Missed field goals and extra points robbed the Browns of their first win since Christmas Eve 2016 and doomed viewers to the second tie in two weeks. Kickers missed 19 opportunities on Sunday, two shy of the single-day high point for this century. (Also of note: Amid the kicking chaos, former Cowboy Dan Bailey, who has the second-highest conversion percentage of all time, remains unsigned as he is reportedly waiting for the right opportunity.) In true Ringer fashion, we ranked how bad each game was for NFL kickers, starting with the best and counting down to the worst.
Honorable Mentions: Caleb Sturgis, Los Angeles Chargers; Stephen Hauschka, Buffalo Bills; Ryan Succop, Tennessee Titans; Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons; Graham Gano, Carolina Panthers; Harrison Butker, Kansas City Chiefs; Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis Colts; Josh Lambo, Jacksonville Jaguars; Robbie Gould, San Francisco 49ers; Matt Prater, Detroit Lions; Brandon McManus, Denver Broncos.
Congratulations to these fine gentleman, who were all perfect on Sunday. They will continue to go underappreciated by their fan bases, but they are winners in this post.
T–no. 9: Jason Myers, New York Jets; Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots; Ka’imi Fairbairn, Houston Texans; Dustin Hopkins, Washington Redskins; Jason Sanders, Miami Dolphins; Jake Elliott, Philadelphia Eagles
These kickers missed various attempts but will have their failings forgotten because of other moments in the game. This group includes a couple of missed 54-yarders in the first quarter (Gostkowski, Fairbairn) and some missed kicks in games their teams were going to lose anyway (Myers, Hopkins).
No. 8: Chandler Catanzaro, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers defeated the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles 27-21 with the aid of quarterback Conor McGregor, but they were in danger of losing in regulation because of a missed extra point from Catanzaro after the Bucs went up 13-7 in the second quarter. For most kickers, missing one chip-shot field goal is an aberration. For Catanzaro, it’s a pattern.
The Bucs won, but it was still frightening to see Catanzaro in red again. Catanzaro will have a hard time earning the trust of a fan base still reeling from the Roberto Aguayo experiment.
No. 7: Chris Boswell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Boswell made 92.1 percent of his field goal attempts and was 13-for-14 on kicks longer than 40 yards last season, going a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond 50. He missed a 49-yarder on Sunday when the Steelers were down 14-0 in the first quarter, but it’s hard to knock a kicker with Boswell’s track record—even with his OT miss in last week’s disastrous tie against Cleveland. Later, though, the Steelers scored a touchdown to cut the Chiefs’ lead to a touchdown and Boswell missed the extra point. The Steelers converted a two-point attempt on the next drive, erasing Boswell’s miss.
No. 6: Wil Lutz, New Orleans Saints
If the Saints had given the Browns their first win since December 2016, there would have been plenty of blame to go around, but some would have surely fallen to Lutz, who missed a 44-yarder in the second quarter. Part of the miss falls on the shoulders of Drew Brees, who took an 11-yard sack directly before this play, but anyone who almost let the Browns win should live in ignominy for a week.
No. 5: Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers
Crosby had the chance at a 52-yard game-winner, but missed. It’s hard to blame Crosby, who made his other five field goal attempts in the game and converted two extra points. Still, the kick would’ve won a game that eventually ended in a tie.
No. 4: Greg Zuerlein, Los Angeles Rams
There are two automatic kickers in the NFL: Justin Tucker, who played on Thursday, and Legatron, who left the Rams-Cardinals game with a groin injury on Sunday. Rams punter Johnny Hekker made a 20-yard field goal, handled kickoff duties, and nailed the only extra point he tried in Zuerlein’s absence. The Rams converted all three of their two-point attempts on Sunday, so maybe Sean McVay swears off extra points altogether the rest of the season.
No. 3: Mike Nugent, Oakland Raiders
A second-quarter Marshawn Lynch touchdown gave the Raiders a 12-0 lead, but Nugent’s extra point was blocked. The Broncos ended up kicking a game-winning field goal with seconds left to win by a single point.
No. 2: Zane Gonzalez, Cleveland Browns
The Browns finished in a humiliating tie last week with the Steelers when Gonzalez’s game-winning field goal attempt was blocked. On Sunday, we saw what happens when he can get the kick off. Gonzalez, 23, had a solid first half with a pair of 39-yard field goals, but his second half was a meltdown. With the Browns up nine, Gonzalez missed an extra point halfway through the third quarter and, with the Browns still up nine, a 44-yarder less than a minute into the fourth quarter. The mistakes might have been forgotten because of a slew of other mistakes that hurt Cleveland, but on fourth-and-5 with 1:16 left in the game, Tyrod Taylor found Antonio Callaway for a 47-yard touchdown that should’ve given the Browns the lead—assuming Gonzalez would hit the extra point. You know what they say about people who assume.
With the game tied, 18-18, the Saints scored a field goal to take the lead quickly, but they left Cleveland enough time to work with. Taylor took the Browns from their own 25-yard line to the Saints’ 34 in two plays, giving Gonzalez a chance at a 52-yarder to send the game to overtime, and …
Gonzalez missed eight points’ worth of kicks in an indoor game that Cleveland lost by three. When the other kicker comes over to console you on the bench after the game, you know it’s been a bad day.
No. 1: Daniel Carlson
In the fifth round of April’s NFL draft, the Vikings traded two sixth-round picks to move up and take Auburn’s Daniel Carlson. He was the first kicker taken in the draft, and now he might be the first kicker cut this season. Carlson’s 48-yard attempt in the first half, which would have cut the Packers’ lead to four, missed wide right. With the game tied 29-29 in overtime, Carlson got a chance at a redo from almost the same distance. He missed it wide right again.
Giving Aaron Rodgers the ball back in that scenario usually means a loss, but the Vikings defense forced a punt, and on the ensuing drive Kirk Cousins led the offense to the Packers’ 17-yard line, setting Carlson up for a 35-yard field goal. You already know how this went (hint: wide right), but it’s more entertaining hearing it from Brazilian announcers.
Perhaps Carlson can make a deal with the Norse gods.