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Folktales: Feely Beats The Broncos
In a year when the Cardinals offense struggled, kicker had game of his life
By Darren Urban Dec 14, 2022

The second season of Folktales continues this week, with "Feely Beats The Broncos" premiering on the Arizona Cardinals YouTube channel Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The gloves told the story.

Gloves on a wide receiver or cornerback? Sure. Gloves on a quarterback? Kurt Warner made that acceptable. But gloves on a kicker? It was impossible for that not to raise an eyebrow or two, but Jay Feely didn't care.

Feely would make tackles, and he certainly didn't want a fingernail getting ripped off. Or if there was a fake, it would give him a better grip on the ball. Or if he had a chance to recover a loose ball on an onside kick attempt.

"But I also liked the look of it," Feely admitted. "I can't lie. I thought I looked cool. I wanted to wear the gloves."

Feely also wanted to be considered an athlete, and in 2010, with the Cardinals reeling offensively in their first season after Kurt Warner's retirement and the trade of Anquan Boldin, the team needed that. They certainly did on Dec. 12, when the Denver Broncos visited Arizona and rookie third-stringer John Skelton was about to make his first start at quarterback.

The final score that day would balloon to a 43-13 Cardinals romp, and the box score would include other heroes. But the game belonged to Feely, who ended up outscoring the Broncos all by himself in a performance so memorable CBS posted a score chyron that gave Feely all the credit.

There were four extra points, five field goals – including a career-best-at-the-time 55-yarder – along with a fake field goal that turned into Feely's lone NFL touchdown and a memorable half-leap into the stands. He scored 22 points before the Broncos could even score six.

"Jay Feely is having the game of his life," CBS announcer Bill Macatee said on the telecast after his TD and 55-yard bomb.

His touchdown broke a streak of nine-plus quarters without one for the Cardinals. And his performance helped provide a little joy in a season gone sour following back-to-back NFC West titles.

"Sometimes kickers, they kick extremely well but you wouldn't want them outside the box of kicking," said Kevin Spencer, the Cardinals special teams coach at the time. "Jay brings this psychological side of it, like there isn't anything that he doesn't think he can't do

"You don't want some milquetoast kind of guy when the game is on the line. I'd rather live with Jay, his gloves and some of his flair. I don't care if he's going to help you win a game."

Feely had a partially torn groin muscle and he wasn't even practicing at that stage of the season. But he was going to be needed because the Cardinals weren't sure what the offense was going to be able to accomplish.

Starting quarterback Derek Anderson was injured, as was backup Max Hall. That left Skelton, the fifth-round pick out of Fordham who was the definition of raw, for a team that already was having problems scoring.

"I do remember that being a storyline and being a little embarrassed on offense that that was a storyline," running back LaRod Stephens-Howling said. "But that's what we had to do that year."

That, along with an aggressive Broncos field-goal block team, lined up well for Feely's memorable game.

Feely was in his first year with the Cardinals and his 10th in the NFL, a veteran who had proven himself time and again but also one with a reputation.

"When Jay came in 2010 I had a bunch of coaches call me and they said, 'God bless it, why are you taking this guy? You don't want this guy,' " Spencer said. "What kicker wears gloves? And they said he's a huge ego guy and you have this preconceived notion about how I have a handful to deal with.

"He's got the ego as big as the Mississippi River, but he's a player, he's a competitor. … You want him to be your guy."

All Feely wanted was to be part of the team. The special teams group can get isolated from the rest of the roster. The Cardinals had three veterans – along with long snapper Mike Leach and punter Ben Graham – and one kicker who believed he was more than just that.

"As a kicker you're always trying to prove you're actually an athlete," Feely said.

Said wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, "Jay took a lot of pride in being one of the few kickers I can honestly say that was like a normal guy."

The game played out not unexpectedly. The Cardinals offense didn't do much, leading to Feely 36- and 48-yard field goals and a 6-3 lead deep into the second quarter. Then came Feely's magic moment, thanks in part to Skelton's inexperience.

Facing at third-and-2 at the Denver 5-yard line, Skelton had a wide-open Tim Hightower in the flat for a first down, but for some reason held the ball long enough (to Hightower's frustration) to lead to an incompletion. Feely trotted on for another field goal. Or not.

The Cardinals called "Wolverine" – a nod to Feely's college days at Michigan – which gave Feely the run-or-pass-to-wing-Ben Patrick option against the aggressive Broncos. There had been fakes called before, although every time, the Cardinals checked out of them after a bad look from the defense.

"I mean, here I am, I'm playing for 10 years and you're just hoping to get an opportunity to run a fake and you're waiting two, three, four, sometimes five years before a coach will actually call a fake and then you check out of it, you're like 'Ahh,' " Feely said. "When we get the right look, I was just so excited."

Graham, the holder, took the snap and flipped it to Feely, who, groin and all, was trying to get to top speed. Feely raised the ball as he crossed the goal line, snapping the Cardinals' touchdown drought, leaping into the stands – kind of, since his vertical only got him high enough to be about halfway up – and generally celebrating like it was the first time he had ever scored a touchdown.

"The funny thing is, I was so tired from jumping into the stands and celebrating and all the emotion that I still had to kick the extra point," Feely said. "And I was like, 'Don't miss this.' "

Right before halftime, Feely boomed his 55-yarder, so the halftime score was Feely 16, Broncos 3. A red-zone stall on the first possession of the second half led to a 23-yard field goal, and deep into the quarter came a missed 49-yard field goal that Feely still regrets, given that he ended up two points shy of the full-time kicker record for points in a game.

When he kicked a 49-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter, CBS ran with the graphic that wouldn't be forgotten: Denver 3, Jay Feely 22.

"It's nuts that they actually put it on TV," said Feely, who these days works as an NFL and college football analyst – for CBS.

By the time the game was over, Feely didn't have all the points, not even close. But even that played out oddly.

Hightower, who had only 13 yards rushing at halftime, finished with 148, with 100 of that total and two touchdown runs coming in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Daryl Washington should've returned an interception 40 yards for a TD with 2:42 left, except he went all Leon Lett before he got to the end zone and let Broncos running back Lance Ball knock the ball away from him before he crossed the goal line – only to have Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett immediately grab the ball on one bounce for the touchdown, saving Washington from complete infamy.

"I'm just glad we won," Skelton said. "The way it ended was just magical."

The game also featured Fitzgerald breaking Anquan Boldin's franchise record for receptions, itself a weird turn of events. Fitzgerald's first catch, which was the record-breaker, was fumbled away – only to have the play ruled incomplete on replay. Fitzgerald caught an 11-yard pass soon after for the real record-breaker.

"That was Jay's day," Fitzgerald said. "That was a day he did his thing."

Senior vice president of media relations Mark Dalton mentioned to Feely on the sideline that Feely was two points shy of Rob Bironas' NFL record for kickers in a game. After the Dockett score, Feely half-jokingly suggested to Leach and Graham they should call another fake and give Feely a chance to run in a two-point conversion.

"Leach was like, 'I'm not doing it,' " Feely said with a smile.

Afterward, Feely grabbed his son Jace from the stands and took him into the locker room, to help celebrate his big day.

"We're not a fan of three points, right?" said long-time safety Adrian Wilson. "To have that moment at home, I'm pretty sure it was a great moment for him. But on defense, we didn't like that very much. Three points aren't good for the defense."

Wilson smiled as he said it. Feely may not have been the hero the Cardinals wanted, but he was the one they needed at the time.

"I was glad I was able to do my part in that game," Feely said. "Even on each of those plays, whether it was a field goal or the fake, I needed everybody else to do their jobs as well for me to be able to do my job.

"That's what is special about football."

Larry Fitzgerald makes the catch that sets the Cardinals franchise record in 2010.
Larry Fitzgerald makes the catch that sets the Cardinals franchise record in 2010.
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