Jay Feely boots a field goal against the Rams last weekend.
Jay Feely is a better kicker than he used to be.
His first four years in the NFL – with Atlanta – weren’t the same as the six since, even with the Falcons’ climate-controlled dome. These days, Feely is confident every kick will go through the uprights.
“You learn how to handle yourself mentally, the frame of mind you need to be in to succeed,” Feely said. “If you watch me before a game, I’m kind of a fool out there, running around, catching punts, throwing the ball, but I am having fun. I learned I needed to enjoy myself and have fun to perform the best.
“If I am too focused, too serious, you allow the pressure of the moment to distract you from doing your best. That’s a process you have to learn.”
Feely’s field-goal percentage never topped 80 in those first four years; he hasn’t been beneath 83.3 percent since. This season, Feely has nailed 15-of-16 (93.8) and he’d be perfect if a 54-yard attempt in – coincidentally – Atlanta hadn’t sailed left.
The Cards’ record and the offense’s inability to generate scoring opportunities don’t help his cause, but Feely’s numbers – including 14 touchbacks -- make him deserving of Pro Bowl consideration. His 14 straight field goals is one shy of Neil Rackers’ 2008 streak that is the second-longest in franchise history (Rackers, during his historic 2005 season, made his first 31 field goals that year en route to an NFL record 40 for the season).
There is a bit of irony in Feely’s steady play, since the kicker who replaced him with the Jets, Nick Folk, has struggled with his accuracy. It wasn’t that Feely wanted to leave New York or even that the Jets didn’t want him – they did. But because of a rule change given the current labor climate, the Jets’ desire to sign free agent defensive end Jason Taylor meant they had to let a free agent go – and Feely was the choice.
Feely said he was “disappointed” he wasn’t going back, but was excited to become a Cardinal (replacing Rackers, who was also a free agent). Not that he had trouble dealing with the swirling winds of late-season New York both in two seasons with the Jets and the Giants, but he isn’t arguing with the perfect late-season Arizona weather either.
Browns punter Reggie Hodges, a good friend of Feely’s, received a picture text from Feely this week. Knowing more than a foot of snow had arrived in Cleveland, Feely took a picture of the Cards’ practice field in the perfect weather, mountain in the background, and let his buddy know it was time to go to work.
“I’m going to take advantage of (the weather),” Feely said with a smile.
The playcalling of coach Ken Whisenhunt has been a much debated topic among fans this season, but Whisenhunt said some of his choices have created debate within himself as well.
“You always try to go back and reevaluate how you called the game,” Whisenhunt said. “I know (the media) goes back and does that. That’s part of it. Sometimes it’s the way the game goes.”
Whisenhunt noted perhaps the most famous – or infamous – example of the season, when the Cards, down three with about two minutes left and well within field-goal range, decided to throw and quarterback
“Do you run the ball there? If I knew we were going to have an interception, absolutely I run the ball there,” Whisenhunt said. “There are a lot of those types of scenarios and the things that, when you haven’t won enough games, keep you up at night.”
Anderson remained off the practice field and not cleared because of a concussion, but because Whisenhunt is hoping he can still be cleared and serve as a third quarterback Sunday, Anderson is listed as doubtful.