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Adam Vinatieri is the oldest player in the NFL and still saves the Colts' ass every week

The 43-year-old leads the league in field goals and hasn’t missed in over a year.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Somehow, Adam Vinatieri keeps doing it. With the Colts at 2-3 and with low expectations entering this year, it may have looked like there was little opportunity for the 43-year-old Vinatieri to shine. But the “Automatic Adam” moniker looks as good as ever on the Colts kicker, who is currently tied for the league lead with 13 made field goals, including a league-leading five from 50 yards or more.

On top of the perfect 13-for-13 on field goals, “Ageless Adam” is also a perfect 12-for-12 on extra points. But accuracy has been Vinatieri’s modus operandi over the past calendar year: He has not missed a field goal since Sept. 21, 2015. There are not many other ways of putting it — Vinatieri’s performance is, pardon the pun, one for the ages.

In the past two seasons — at ages 41 and 42, respectively — Vinatieri was the NFL’s most accurate kicker, nailing a combined 55 of 58 field goals. In his three prior seasons, Vinatieri did not top an 87.5 field goal percentage, though, and in his entire career he only topped 90 percent accuracy in a season twice.

According to Pro-Football Reference’s data, of the 20 players 40 or older to register a field goal or an extra point attempt, Vinatieri has the best field goal percentage, at 89.6 percent.

Rank Player Seasons Ages FG made FG attempts FG %
1 Adam Vinatieri 2012-16 40-43 129 144 89.6
2 Phil Dawson 2015-16 40-41 28 32 87.5
3 Matt Bryant 2015-16 40-41 25 29 86.2
4 Jason Hanson 2010-12 40-42 68 79 86.1
5 John Carney 2004-10 40-46 135 159 84.9
6 Morten Andersen 2000-07 40-47 149 178 83.7
7 John Kasay 2009-11 40-42 75 90 83.3
8 Matt Stover 2008-09 40-41 36 44 81.8
9 Gary Anderson 1999-2004 40-45 118 147 80.3
10 Jan Stenerud 1982-85 40-43 69 93 74.2

In terms of extra points, he is 11th among that aged group with a 98.2 percent extra point percentage, but all three of his extra point misses have come from the new further distance. Of the 10 ahead of him, only one — Matt Bryant of the Falcons — has had to kick extra points from the 15-yard line on a regular basis.

Vinatieri himself plans to keep kicking until he can’t anymore. He signed a two-year contract in the offseason, and in a March interview with ESPN Vinatieri said that “the proof is the product that you put on the field. I still enjoy the game as much as I ever had,” with the 43-year-old adding, “I’m not too old yet.”

Even after Sunday’s 29-23 win over the Chicago Bears, Vinatieri was straightforward about just doing his job. “I’m just happy I made all the kicks today, went out there and helped put points on the board,” he said.

His coach, Chuck Pagano, was effusive in his praise of Vinatieri and even gave him the game ball. “He made a bunch of damn kicks today again,” Pagano said, “and he saves our ass every week.”

All in all, Vinatieri has had one of the unlikeliest Hall of Fame-worthy NFL careers in recent memory. The great-great-grandson of Gen. George Custer’s bandmaster and a distant cousin of Evel Knievel, Vinatieri was supposed to kick at West Point for Army, but left after two weeks and kicked for four years at FCS South Dakota State.

After going undrafted, Vinatieri caught on with the Patriots in 1996 and even kicked the opening kickoff that Desmond Howard turned into the first kickoff return TD in Super Bowl history. For some more perspective on how long he has been around, he also once notably outran Herschel Walker to tackle him and save a touchdown. To make you realize just how far back Vinatieri goes, Walker’s first professional team was the USFL’s New Jersey Generals, who were owned by a thirty-something real estate mogul named Donald Trump.

Now the oldest player in the NFL, Vinatieri has been around for over two decades and he is still kicking, somehow doing his job better than ever. The two-time Super Bowl champion is 130 points away from second place on the NFL’s all-time scoring list, and if he stays in the league for a couple more seasons, he could take the top spot from Morten Andersen. As long as he continues kicking at this level, it’s a reachable goal, no matter how old he is.