How many uprights has kicker Chris Boswell hit during his eight-year career that officially began with the Steelers during the 2015 regular season?
I’m sure he’s clanged or thudded a few off of the uprights over the years. It happens. It’s part of the job. When you’re often attempting field goals from 40-plus yards away, a football could go anywhere once Mother Nature (or an indoor air-conditioning system) grabs a hold of that sucker after you’ve launched it into space.
There’s even more uncertainty of a football’s trajectory when a kicker attempts a field goal from 50-plus yards away, which Boswell did late in the overtime period of Sunday’s Week 1 game against the Bengals at Paycor Stadium.
The attempt was from 55 yards, in fact, a distance that used to inspire many prayers by a kicker, his family and his team’s fans. Boswell missed, unfortunately, as his game-winning attempt—you guessed it—crashed into the left upright with a resounding thud and ricocheted back toward the field.
But instead of acting like his attempt was a 50-50 proposition, at best, Boswell acted like he had just missed a chip shot and did the Young College Football Fan Who Just Witnessed The Home Team Lose To An Underdog pose by placing his hands on his helmet in disbelief.
Some of his teammates struck the same pose after Boswell’s field goal try went awry. Heck, punter Pressley Harvin, who doubles as the holder on field goals and extra points, looked like he wanted to fight someone as he walked off the field following the miss.
The nerve of Boswell acting surprised after his miss. I tell ya, these kickers are getting too big for their britches.
Actually, in defense of Boswell, and his teammates, I was also pretty darn shocked that Boswell’s long try wasn’t true.
In fact, I thought the game was over the moment Pittsburgh’s offense nudged the football inside the Bengals’ 40-yard line.
Why did I feel that way? Have you seen the number of 50-plus yard kicks Boswell has made in recent years, including a 56-yard field goal last September at the previously named Heinz Field—a record for a venue that once chewed kickers up and spit them out?
There was no doubt in my mind that Boswell would make it.
Unfortunately, that’s also how I felt midway through the first quarter when Bengals kicker Evan McPherson lined up for a 59-yard try. Not only was McPherson’s kick true, but the CBS broadcast crew showed the same kind of emotion that used to be saved for successful 39-yard attempts.
I turned 50 a few months ago, and while I continue to delude myself into thinking 50 is the new 40, there is no question this is true when it comes to the distances NFL kickers can confidently make field goals from in the modern era.
NFL kickers are turning into the same freakish athletes as their seemingly more rugged colleagues. For example, Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker hurt his ankle during Kansas City’s blowout win over the Cardinals on Sunday and still managed to come back into the game and nail a 54-yard try.
Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett was roundly criticized for sending kicker Brandon McManus out to attempt a game-winning 64-yard field goal against the Seahawks on Monday Night Football.
McManus missed, and the Seahawks held on for a 17-16 win.
It was fourth and five from the Seahawks’ 46 when Hackett decided to go with his kicker. “Why pay Russell Wilson $245 million if you don’t trust him to convert on fourth and five?” asked Hackett’s critics in hindsight.
Good point. Why not give Wilson, one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL who was returning to Seattle to face his old team, the chance to win the game?
But while that would have made total sense as recently as 10 years ago, to reiterate, times have changed with the modern NFL kicker.
Hackett’s coaching decision made perfect to me the second I saw McManus run out onto the field.
Kickers have now weaponized the 50-yard line.
Justin Tucker defeated the Lions with a record-setting 66-yard field goal last year, a distance I’m fairly confident will be topped by him or someone else sooner rather than later.
Boswell is as good a candidate as any. The reason his miss made such a loud thud when he hit the upright on Sunday was that it wasn’t your typical field goal try where the football spins end over end as it approaches its target. No, Boswell’s try looked like a heat-seeking missile that was spinning every which way and, if not for smacking off of the upright, may have traveled another 15 yards.
Modern NFL kickers have become such weapons, that they’re taking the football out of Russell Wilson’s hands on fourth and five from midfield.
No wonder Chris Boswell had the nerve to not act surprised when he finally ended Sunday’s game from 53 yards away.