There are many matchups that are discussed and dissected during Super Bowl week but one that’s rarely looked at is the kicker. Kickers are the most disrespected of football players. In fact, many people go as far as to consider them not even football players. But many times the game lands on the foot of the smallest player on the field.
Being a kicker in the NFL is the hardest job in the sport. Many games come down to a close finish and rest on their foot. If the kicker makes the kick, everyone says he was supposed to because that’s his job and the glory goes to the quarterback. If he misses the kick, it’s the kicker’s fault that the team lost. Even if the kick was earlier in the game, people are just as likely to talk about that missed field goal attempt as they are a dropped pass.
If there’s one team that knows the importance of having a kicker with ice in his veins, it’s the New England Patriots. The Patriots have won two of their three Super Bowls with game winning kicks by Adam Vinatieri. And the Patriots can just look back to last week’s AFC Championship game to see the impact a kicker can have on a game.
In Super Bowl XLVI, as the New York Giants face the New England Patriots, the unthankful job of place kicking will rest with Lawrence Tynes of the Giants and Stephen Gostkowski of the Patriots. While everyone debates Tom Brady and Eli Manning from every angle, the result of Sunday’s clash could very well come down to which of these kickers have nerves of steel.
This season, Gostkowski has had the better season of the two kickers converting 32 of 37 field goal opportunities and 4 for 4 during the postseason. With an 86.5% conversion rate, Gostkowski has a long this season of 50 yards and a career long of 53 yards.
Lawrence Tynes hasn’t been quite as consistent this year as Gostkowski. Overall, Tynes is 25 for 32 and 6 for 8 during the postseason. That equates to a 78.1% conversion rate though Tynes did play one more postseason game than Gostkowski. Tynes did however convert his last kick in one of the pressured situations for a kicker. With the NFC Championship game between the Giants and the San Francisco 49ers tied in overtime, Tynes hit a 31-yard field goal to send the Giants to Indianapolis.
With two weeks of pregame hype, Super Bowl XLVI will be analyzed from every aspect and the teams will be compared in almost every way. But it could very well be the smallest guys on the field that will make the biggest difference.