I spent this past Monday morning driving from Boston back home to New Jersey. One of the perks of this road trip was that for the first time I got to experience the much talked about WEEI Sports Radio in Boston. Those guys can only be described as “special.”
When I got in the car they were debating who Patriots fans should be rooting for in the AFC Championship game. Should it be the division rival Jets, or should it be the team they’ve been battling this past decade the Colts. The guy on the air finally settled on the Jets for three ridiculous reasons. The first was that if Peyton Manning loses to the Jets who were a number 5 seed in the playoffs it would settle the Manning vs. Brady argument and Brady would be better (That is the worst logic I’ve ever heard. There is no argument there, Manning is better, who cares what Brady has done in the playoffs, you want proof just watch film of the two of them). The second reason for rooting for the Jets was this way the Colts will not win the Super Bowl and then in everyone in Boston could have fun watching either the Saints or Vikings destroy the Jets in the Super Bowl. (That’s right because obviously if the Jets defense is good enough to stop the Chargers and Peyton Manning on the road in back to back weeks they obviously are not good enough to stop either the Saints or Vikings on a neutral field.) Yes this guy gets paid to think like that, there is hope for me yet.
He then moved on to talk about how the Jets should not even be here and that they are only here because Nate Kaeding choked last week. I’m not totally buying into that. Was it really Kaeding’s fault for missing three field goals on Sunday?
Lets first look at the numbers. Yes Kaeding was the most accurate kicker in football during the regular season, but going into the game against the Jets he was 3 for 6 in his career in the playoffs. That’s right; Kaeding was only a 50% field goal kicker in the playoffs. Even Shaun Suisham hits more then half his field goals. This was not as much of a joke job as just the norm with Kaeding, when the big moment comes he shrinks. You could have said the same thing about Peyton Manning until 2005 when he won the Super Bowl.
Getting away from the numbers let’s look at the situation Kaeding was put in. Did you see the field on Sunday? It looked nice didn’t it? Well did you also see how many people were slipping and losing their footing in the first half? Forget about Jim Nantz working the announcer’s jinx to perfection on that first kick (though a very big thank you to you Jim). The whole first half people were slipping when trying to make cuts on almost every play. When it’s hard to plant your feet it is not exactly easy to set your feet for a field goal. This was not an easy field to kick on, yes, Jay Feely hit all three of his kicks but his first extra point came dangerously close to missing. This was not an easy field to kick on.
I don’t think anyone is holding the second field goal against Kaeding. It was a last second 57-yard field goal that would have tied his career long. It was defiantly not a sure thing.
Now lets get to perhaps what was the most important (and perhaps his worst miss) kick of the game; Kaeding’s last field goal. Kicking in the NFL is more mental then anything. It’s all about confidence. Nate Kaeding was the most accurate kicker in the NFL, he defiantly had confidence. That is until he got rattled. When Kaeding came marching onto the field for his third kick his face looked like he was thinking, “I know I can do this, I’ve done it before, I SHOULD be able to do this.” Anyone who has played sports knows that there is no room for “I think,” “I can,” or “I’ll try,” there is only room for “I will.” Nate Kaeding did not have the “I will make this kick” look on his face. Already, even before the kick he had lost the battle. Even after his third miss he had a chance to make an extra point, he came out with an “I will make this extra point” look on his face, and he put it right down the middle. It was all about confidence with Kaeding and after 2 misses he had a moment of doubt, and when kicking field goals is a mental game, a moment of doubt is all it takes to screw up.
The Chargers were going to miss that kick as soon as Kaeding trotted out on the field without the swagger a kicker needs. Head Coach Norv Turner should have seen the lack of confidence his kicker had and sent the offense back out to go for the first down. The look on Kaeding’s face said it all “I should be able to do this,” not “I will do this” and when you saw that look, you knew he was going to miss.
With all that being said opposing kickers are 0-5 on field goals in the playoffs against the Jets. Maybe Indy should be thinking there just might be a higher power here and that they shouldn’t even tempt fate by using their kicker. Maybe I should keep my mouth shut before I give them an idea and see the Colts score a touchdown on a 4th down play.