The Jets lost 23-22 to the Bengals in their season opener. And in a one-point game, there was one really big reason for their loss: Kicker Nick Folk missed an extra point and had a 22-yard field goal attempt blocked. This might be the worst — and costliest — kicking performance in recent memory.
It’s pretty rare to miss 22-yarders. Since you’re so close to the uprights, you can afford to loft the ball really high to avoid a block. And in the NFL, hashmarks aren’t wider than the goalposts, so there’s no real aiming involved: Just kick it straight and up.
Last year, there were 246 field goal attempts of 29 yards or less in the NFL, and kickers converted 240 of them. That’s a 97.6 percent conversion rate. And a 22-yarder is easier than a 29-yarder. No kicker had missed an attempt from 22 yards or closer since the 2012 season — the last miss from that close was Week 12 of that year, when Falcons kicker Matt Bryant missed a 22-yarder against the Buccaneers.
In the Pro-Football-Reference database, which includes results since 1994, there had been 92 missed kicks of under 25 yards. That means a miss from that length is something that happens roughly four times per NFL season. Somehow, Folk is now responsible for FIVE of these brutal misses, which is the most of any kicker.
And then there’s the extra point. Since last year, the extra point has been longer, a 32-yard attempt instead of a 19-yarder. But kickers still hit 94.2 percent of them.
So in the same game, Folk missed one attempt that NFL kickers made over 97 percent of the time last year and another that NFL kickers made over 94 percent of the time last year. That’s wildly bad.
Last year we took a look at every game that had a missed extra point to see if the additional length had a concrete effect on the outcome. Sixty-five of the 68 games that fit that description were either won by the team that missed or decided by a large enough margin that it’s clear the extra point wasn’t a factor. One of those three, oddly enough, was the 2016 AFC Championship game, where historically great kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed. But, suffice it to say, it’s rare.
However, Sunday’s Jets loss was the first such game decided by one point. In all the other games, the missed extra point caused the losing team to make decisions that exacerbated their deficit, like two-point conversions that went on to fail. The Jets are the first team since the extra point was moved back to lose solely by the margin of their failed kick. And in that same game, Folk missed another extremely rare chip shot.
I’m not sure it’s fair to say Folk had the worst performance in recent NFL history -- last year, Kyle Brindza had a game where he missed a 29-yarder and an extra point, so it’s possible to miss a chippie and an XP — but it was a phenomenally awkward combination of easy misses in a tightly contested game.
In June, Jets blog Gang Green Nation went really, really deep in their analysis of Folk and found that he was slightly below average as a kicker in spite of a contract that’s slightly above the league average. Folk doesn’t have really have a monster leg, and even if he did, it probably wouldn’t justify this level of inaccuracy on should-be gimmies.
His performance on Sunday was, well, significantly worse than average. It’s not easy to find an average kicker on the free agent market, but it hypothetically should be possible to find a kicker capable of not failing in the most basic aspects of placekicking, which is what Folk did Sunday.