Monday, November 24, 2008

The Fair Catch Kick

Maybe you've guessed this about me by now: there's nothing I love more than an obscure rule, a strange twist, a bizarre outcome.

So I'm pretty jazzed about what Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt did this weekend. He sent placekicker Neil Rackers in to try a 68-yard field goal near the end of the first half.

"What!?", I hear you saying. "68 yards? Is he nuts?"

Well, maybe. But at least he knows the rules. See, Rackers' field goal attempt was actually a fair catch kick. It seems few people realize the NFL still allows a team making a fair catch two options: run a play from scrimmage, or kick the ball from that spot (either a placekick or a dropkick). In other words, without having to worry about a snap-and-hold, and without having to deal with a rushing defense, you get a chance to score 3 points.

"But still," you say. "68 yards!" Well, get to an NFL game early some day and watch the kickers. Most of these guys have the leg to hit from 60 and beyond. It wouldn't shock me if the Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski could nail one from 75 or 80 yards. Remember: in a fair catch kick, there's no snap, no hold, no rush. The holder puts the ball on the turf and the kicker just fires when ready.

Rackers totally muffed his kick, but that doesn't mean the decision was a bad one. The option was to go to the line of scrimmage and run the last-minute offense. Good luck with that.

What strikes me as strange is not the fact that the Cardinals would try a 68-yarder. I find it odd that no NFL team has made a free catch kick field goal in 40 years. The last successful free catch kick was a game-winner in 1968 by Chicago's Mac Percival. His 43-yarder beat the Packers with 20 seconds on the clock.

Send Rackers out there again!

1 comment:

Stan Bunger said...

Update--did you see Sebastian Janikowski's kickoff against KC? He kicked from the Raider 45 after a penalty, and easily hit it far enough to score a field goal. In other words, a fair catch on the Raider 45 puts them within field goal range!