Column: NFL review and preview: These guys are not exactly getting a kick out of it
It was hideous. And glorious.
Rookie Greg Joseph made a 37-yard knuckleball field goal to beat Baltimore, 12-9, in overtime. Not only was it a thrilling moment for the Cleveland Browns, who picked up their first division win since 2015, but it encapsulated what a wild ride kicking has been through the first five weeks of the NFL season.
Joseph got the job after the Browns dumped Zane Gonzalez, who missed four field-goal tries in a Week 2 loss to New Orleans.
Green Bay fixture Mason Crosby missed four field-goal attempts and an extra-point try in the Packers’ 31-23 loss to Detroit on Sunday.
On Monday, coach Mike McCarthy stressed he has faith in Crosby, but indicated his patience has limits.
“He’s got to make those kicks,” McCarthy said. “He’s a proven highly successful kicker, and I believe in him. But he’s got to make those kicks.”
Both Los Angeles teams have had kicking issues lately, with the Rams on their second replacement since losing All-Pro Greg Zuerlein to a groin injury in Week 1. He could be back as early as Sunday.
Five days after replacing the struggling Sam Ficken, the Rams’ Cairo Santos missed an extra-point try in the fourth quarter at Seattle on Sunday that could have been costly. The Rams trailed 31-30 before pulling ahead for good later in the period with a 39-yard field goal by Santos.
Former NFL kicker Michael Husted said the mere fact that a kick is a PAT can make it more pressure-packed than an identical 33-yard field goal.
“I still think that there’s a stigma out there about the extra point,” said Husted, a specialists coach and consultant. “We’re taught our whole life and throughout our careers that, up until a couple years ago, a PAT is automatic. You’re supposed to make them. If you miss one, it’s a sin.
“Whether fair or not, that’s still the perception of everybody out there when it comes to an extra point. But it’s a 33-yarder. Yeah, you’re supposed to make those, but it can be difficult. And now you’re missing something you’re not supposed to miss by thinking about it.
“Guys start kind of aiming and kicking not to miss.”
On the Case
The 5-0 Rams, the NFC’s only undefeated team, will try to keep it rolling in Denver, where they will face their former quarterback, Case Keenum. He handed them their only road loss of the Sean McVay era, helping lead the Minnesota Vikings to victory over the Rams last season. It’s a far taller order this year, as the Rams are better, and Denver has lost three games in a row.
No place like home
When Arizona plays at the Vikings, it likely will be receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s last game in his hometown. The 15-year NFL veteran, who used to be a Vikings ballboy, hasn’t announced he’s retiring after this season, but it’s unlikely he’ll still be playing the next time the Cardinals make that trip north.
We meet again
Seattle plays at Oakland, which means Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch will face his former team. He played for the Seahawks from 2010 to 2015, and famously tore off a touchdown run against New Orleans in the playoffs that caused such a crazy reaction in Seattle’s stadium that it jiggled the seismic needle — hence, the “Beast Quake” game.
Lynch leads the Raiders in rushing with 331 yards and three touchdowns but has been kept out of the end zone in the last two games.
For better or worse
The Chargers are heading back to Cleveland, and that place holds special meaning for coach Anthony Lynn, a former Browns assistant. It’s where he met his wife, Stacey Bell, who was a TV anchor at Fox 8 at the time.
The year was 2007, and Lynn had been running backs coach in Dallas under Bill Parcells, who was retiring. Norv Turner, then coach of the Chargers, offered Lynn a job in San Diego. But little did Lynn know, Parcells had arranged for him to go to Cleveland under Romeo Crennel.
Lynn felt honor-bound to go with what Parcells arranged, although San Diego was tempting.
“I had just gotten a divorce,” Lynn told The Times last year. “I’m thinking, San Diego or Cleveland” — tilting his hands like an overloaded scale, heavily in the direction of going to the Chargers — “but I went to Cleveland out of respect for coach Parcells. I remember coming home, I’m flying back to Dallas, and I pick up a Cleveland magazine. It says the worst place in the United States for single men is Cleveland, Ohio. I’m like, ‘This can’t get any worse!’ It’s a great family town, great food — I love that about Cleveland — but for singles? Not so.”
It worked out better than he could have hoped.
The game of the week is undefeated Kansas City at New England, which is coming off consecutive victories.
In last season’s Kickoff Opener, the Chiefs thumped the Patriots 42-27 at Gillette Stadium.
That’s when Alex Smith was Kansas City’s quarterback, and his father, Doug, was in the stands. Before the game, some New England fans discovered the father-son connection, and told the elder Smith: “Sorry your son has to play here.” They sounded genuinely sympathetic, in light of how dominant the Patriots had been, especially at home.
But by the fourth quarter, when those disappointed fans were streaming toward the exits, Doug Smith happily needled them with: “Sorry you’re leaving early.”
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer
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