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NFL Kickers Are Excellent, But They Will Never Be Perfect

Matt Bryant's missed extra point hurt the Falcons Sunday, no doubt (although the way Kyler Murray was playing and the Falcons defense as well, Murray's chances to drive the Cards to a game-winning field-goal try seemed high to me even if Bryant had made the kick..)

But there are going to be kicks that are missed. In this week's mailbag, I did a rundown -- unscientific as it was -- of most of the crucial missed kicks/blocked kicks at State Farm Stadium since it opened in 2006. All hurt the team, whether it was the Cardinals or their opponent. But those plays -- and Bryant, now -- serve as a reminder that it's not realistic to think a kicker will make every single kick.

"That's the game," Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "You see even (Adam) Vinatieri had a couple of misses and he's one of the best of all-time. It's part of the sport and those guys understand that. When you know the work ethic a guy is putting in, you watch him in practice and know how consistent he is, a guy like Zane (Gonzalez), if he misses a couple, I think everyone on our staff understands he's going to make the next one."

Vinatieri has missed three of 12 extra points already this season, and three of 11 field-goal tries, and when it gets that shaky, yes, there is reason for concern. There was reason for concern for the Cardinals in 2016 when Chandler Catanzaro missed some kicks, especially the 24-yarder in overtime that would've beaten the Seahawks in the eventual tie (a tie because Steven Hauschka also missed a field goal from 28 yards only a few minutes later).

Generally, though, 100 percent isn't possible. Even the best kicker in the game, Baltimore's Justin Tucker, missed a crucial extra point last year that cost the Ravens, and while he has made a ridiculous 90.6 percent of his field-goal attempts in his career, that also means he has missed 26 field goals (and I'm betting that almost every one came as a shock to everyone watching.)

Gonzalez leads the NFL in scoring with 58 points. He's made 16 of 19 field goals (and all 10 extra points), although after he missed two field goals against Seattle, some fans wanted him replaced. My first thought? Have you looked across the kicking landscape? Many teams would love to have Gonzalez.

In 1986, NFL kickers made only 68.6 percent of their field-goal tries. Five years later, the number had climbed into the 74-75 percent range. In 1996, the league was at 80 percent for the first time. It's been right around 84 percent the last few years (although it's just above 80 in 2019 so far). There was a reason the NFL moved the extra-point back -- to make it harder, to cause more misses. Misses in the kicking game are going to happen. You just hope it doesn't happen at the worst time.

S Budda Baker celebrates the missed extra point of Falcons K Matt Bryant Sunday.
S Budda Baker celebrates the missed extra point of Falcons K Matt Bryant Sunday.

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