This is the scientific world of place-kicking, brought to you by the Rams’ own mad scientist, Mike Lansford, whose bare right foot accounted for 4 field goals and a 12-10 victory over the New Orleans Saints Sunday.
Lansford on the intricate sighting technique used for lining up a field-goal attempt:
“I just pick out a drunk behind the uprights, aim at him and hope it goes through.”
Lansford on the rock-solid relationship between himself and Ram Coach John Robinson:
“Before the game, I kicked very well. I hit a 57-yarder with really no problem. I mentioned it to (Robinson) and he said, ‘I’m glad you got it during practice because you’ll never, ever kick one in a game.’ ”
And our hero on his unconventional pregame methods:
“I’m sitting here in the locker room warming up and I’m throwing my hands up--and don’t any of you guys do it--I caught myself on the light right there and split (my hand) wide open. How’s that for a way to start the day?”
How’s this for a way to end your day:
--Field goals of 37, 18, 47 and 30 yards, in a game that allowed the Rams to join the Saints atop the NFC West standings.
--Four field goals in the Superdome, Lansford’s absolute favorite place to kick and to look for inebriated fans.
--Four field goals against the Saints, the same team he kicked 4 against in 1986 and the team he kept out of the playoffs in 1983 with a last-second field goal.
Lansford doesn’t like New Orleans, he adores it. New Orleans to Lansford means the windless, climate-controlled Superdome, artificial turf and important games. If he had his druthers, Lansford might lead the charge for something called the Anaheimdome, patterned after his home away from home.
“You’ve got to love kicking indoors,” he said. “Seventy-two degrees, no wind.”
Nothing seems to disturb Lansford once he enters the city limits here. Not the pressure. Not the crowd. Not the locker-room light fixtures. The Crescent City is his friend. The Crescent City heals all wounds.
Good thing, too. Entering Sunday’s game, Lansford already had missed 2 extra points (he missed only 4 in the last 3 seasons). And against the Seattle Seahawks last week, he had a 43-yard field-goal attempt blocked and returned for a touchdown.
“He’s had a couple of problems this year, not necessarily him,” said Artie Gigantino, the Ram special teams coach. “But you don’t want those things to become mental problems.”
So what happens Sunday? Lansford opens up his morning paper, The Times-Picayune, and finds his name listed under Weaknesses in the Ram team capsule.
“For somebody to describe me as weak or a liability was stimulating, to say the least,” he said.
Then Lansford accidentally slices his hand against the sharp edge of a light fixture, a cut so deep that it was still bleeding at game’s end. Then, on the Rams’ 2nd possession, he gets a 27-yard attempt blocked.
Was Lansford concerned? Worried? Nah.
“I love it,” he said. “I love big games. I love big kicks. It’s what football is all about.”
Big Kick No. 1 gave the Rams a 3-0 lead. Big Kick No. 2 gave them a 6-0 lead. Really Big Kick No. 3--the 47-yarder--put the Rams ahead, 9-7. Big Kick No. 4 made it 12-7.
When it was over, Lansford had helped kick the Rams all the way into a tie for first place in the division. Not only that, but he had solidified his place in the New Orleans fans’ mind as a villain.
Sunday it was his 4 field goals that did it. In 1986 it was his 4 field goals. And in 1983, it was his legendary 42-yarder. Each kick made the Saints ache, especially the memory of ’83.
“It’s mentioned every year I come down here and I love it,” Lansford said. “I’m glad I made a mark somewhere in my life.”
Now if Lansford just can wiggle out of the considerable shadow of Morten Andersen, the Saints’ perennial All-Pro and the league’s most accurate kicker. No matter what Lansford does these days, there’s Andersen’s reputation to deal with.
The kickers are friends, of course. It’s just that Lansford must feel like he’s kicking his foot against a wall when it comes to overtaking Andersen.
Andersen kicked a field goal Sunday, a 33-yarder that cut the Rams’ lead to 12-10, with about 4 minutes remaining. Had the Saints been able to hold the Rams from then on, who knows what might have happened. All Lansford could think of was Andersen trotting in for a last-second, game-winning attempt.
“I was hoping it wouldn’t (come to that),” Lansford said. “You don’t know how sick I am of reading about Morten, how great Morten is--even though he is great and I think the guy is just fantastic. But I’m convinced that as long as he’s around, the best I can do is second-team All-Pro.”
Lansford smiled as he said all this. He could afford to. After all, Sunday was his to cherish.