Placekicking isn’t always an important part of an NFL game. Especially in the modern era, teams generally put an emphasis on getting as many touchdowns as they can in order to score more. This season, however, some coaches are taking a different philosophy. Teams are trying for longer field goals than they have in the past.
With the extra emphasis on longer field goals, rather than punting or going for it on fourth down, the record for the NFL’s longest field goal may be in jeopardy.
Record-setting pace for long field goals
Matt Prater set the NFL record for the longest field goal in 2013 when he put a 64-yard kick through the uprights. That record still stands today, but it could be in jeopardy of being surpassed. The Associated Press reports teams across the league are setting records for field goals from long distances.
In Week 10, 11 field goals of at least 50 yards occurred. This tied the record set in Week 13 of 2012. Through Week 10, there was a record 71 field goals from that distance. This broke the record of 67 set in 2017. Field goal attempts from 50 yards-plus are also setting records, with 102 in the first 10 weeks of the season. That equates to a 69.6% success rate, third all-time behind 2017 and 2011.
Some of this season’s longest field goals
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It’s been seven years since Prater set the record for the longest field goal, but he’s still among the game’s top kickers at 36 years old. While the veteran kicker has yet to match the 64-yarder this season, he came close to it. Prater made a 59-yard field goal as time expired in the Lions’ Week 10 game against Washington to give Detroit a 31-27 win.
Prater told the AP trying a game-winning kick from that distance is “the same as any other kick.” When he attempts a kick of that distance, he says he’ll “just go out and swing hard and hope it goes straight type thing” without trying to put extra pressure on himself. And Prater is always up for the challenge, saying he “would go out and attempt anything” in that situation.
Surprisingly, that wasn’t the longest field goal made that week. The Seahawks’ Jason Myers booted a career-best 61-yard field goal to end the first half in Seattle’s game against the Rams. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called it “a fantastic kick.” He praised Myers for doing everything that the team has asked of him this season.
Why are teams trying longer field goals?
The trend toward trying longer field goals brings up the question of why teams are putting their fate on the foot of players who historically have been afterthoughts in the league. With players on both offense and defense getting bigger, there’s a bigger possibility of injuries.
This is especially true in short-yardage situations, as is often the case when teams are going for it on fourth down. With that in mind, teams may be hesitant to put their highly paid stars — particularly on quarterback sneaks — in that situation when they can instead go for the field goal, which is a much less physical play and has a good chance of adding three points to their score, which can be the difference between a win or a loss.
With social distancing the norm this year, that may also play a part in teams going for longer field goals as the players aren’t as close together as they would be on an offensive play.