Floundering kickers under spotlight after new rules

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 05, 2015 1:28 AM

(Reuters) - The task of a kicker in the National Football League (NFL) has become considerably more challenging this season, and the floundering early results have affected game outcomes and job security.

When the NFL implemented a rule change in advance of this season that added 13 additional yards to an extra point attempt, it vowed to add excitement to a routine act.

What the league may not have anticipated is that kickers would so routinely crack under the added pressure of a 33-yard boot.

Entering Week Four of play, a total of 13 extra point attempts had already been missed, which was four more misfires than all of last year.

The trend of inaccuracy has seemingly crept into field goals as well and players are paying the price for their wayward kicks.

Just this past week, the Houston Texans cut kicker Randy Bullock while the Pittsburgh Steelers sent Josh Scobee packing following his dreadful performance in the team's 23-20 overtime loss to Baltimore on Thursday.

Scobee set the tone for a wayward NFL week when he missed a pair of field goals in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter that led to the Steelers' demise.

Sunday's action followed suit as several games were decided by errant kicks.

New Orleans nearly had their first victory of the campaign snatched away when kicker Zach Hocker hit the upright on a potential game-winner in the final seconds, but the Saints recovered to beat Dallas 26-20 in overtime.

Philadelphia's Caleb Sturgis, who was recently signed to fill in for injured starter Cody Parkey, was off on a 33-yard field goal as well as an extra point which proved the difference the Eagles' 23-20 defeat to Washington. Jacksonville's Jason Myers missed a 53-yarder as time expired in regulation, then was off on a 48-yard boot in overtime of the Jaguars' 16-13 loss to Indianapolis.

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"I didn't do my part today," Myers told reporters. "I didn't have a great first game of the season. I came back the next week (and did well).

"I have to do my part next time."

Myers, like many of the NFL's struggling kickers, can only hope there is a next time.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)