I watched the Indianapolis Colts play the New York Jets in an ugly preseason slog so you wouldn’t have to, and possibly the most eyebrow-raising sights, other than the parade of injured Colts assisted off the field, came from their usually reliable kicking game. It’s not that the special teams were a disaster; things just got a little squirrely at points. Considering that the Jets won the game on a 56-yard field goal kicked by a rookie, Colts fans have to hope that the rust has been knocked off the horseshoe’s most famous feet.
The weirdness started when Pat McAfee‘s first punt of the season went sideways on him. From the look on his face, he took it a little personally. After the game he tweeted, “1st ball hailed from Shankesville, but some bombs followed.” And he was right. Even with that first iffy kick, he hit six punts for an average of 46.5 yards. His average last season was 46 yards, enough to earn him his newly minted five-year contract. These things happen, and that’s what these games are for, getting back in the groove in game situations. We’ll have nothing to worry about from McAfee, even if we hope not to see much of him.
A little more concerning was watching Adam Vinatieri miss a field goal from essentially extra point range, which was ironic, because this week the NFL is experimenting with moving the extra points back to generate more excitement. Those three points probably would have made a difference in the final score (heaven forbid, they might have sent the game to overtime). You wouldn’t think that a veteran like Vinatieri would need preseason to warm up after all of these years, but maybe the vets need it most of all. I mean, even Peyton Manning fumbled a snap. Hopefully it was just one of those weird things, not a sign of impending issues.
McAfee has made no secret that, when Vinatieri is done, he’d love to take on all kicking responsibilities, and he’s been making long field goals in practice. If for any reason Vinatieri can’t go, the Colts have a reliable backup. Vinatieri’s a Hall of Fame candidate, but McAfee is a fan favorite. It’s way too early to pass any judgments, but how strange would it be if one day a team had a high-profile kicker controversy instead of a quarterback one?