If there's one fantasy that has gone through the mind of nearly every NFL kicker during their career, it's the chance to attempt a game-winning field goal in the Super Bowl. Although some kickers get to live out that fantasy (hello, Adam Vinatieri), the dream can also quickly turn into a nightmare, just ask former Bills kicker Scott Norwood about that.
Norwood lived out every kicker's worst nightmare in Super Bowl XXV when he missed a 47-yard field goal on Buffalo's final play of the game. If the kick had gone in, the Bills would have won, but instead, Norwood produced the most iconic miss in NFL history and the Bills lost 20-19.
For kickers in the Super Bowl, there's a fine line between famous and infamous and Norwood learned that the hard way after his miss. Although the kick happened way back in January of 1991, Norwood's name still lives in NFL infamy to this day.
The kick by Norwood is extra relevant this week. Not only is it the 30th anniversary of the kick, but the miss happened in Tampa, which just happens to be the location for Super Bowl LV. Just like 30 years ago, don't be surprised if the kicking game adds some serious drama to the Super Bowl.
The recipe for kicking drama is pretty simple: You need two evenly matched teams (check), you need some potentially bad weather (check) and you need two kickers who have struggled with at least one aspect of their game (check).
Super Bowl LV is almost here, and you can watch it for free on the CBS Sports App.
If you're one of those people who likes to take a bathroom break during extra points, this isn't the year to do it. Although the extra point is usually one of the least exciting plays in football, don't be surprised if there's some drama on Super Bowl Sunday. In the entire NFL, there were only three kickers this season who missed five or more extra points and two of them will be playing in this game (Vikings kicker Dan Bailey is the other).
On Kansas City's end, Butker hit just 88.9% (48 of 54) of his extra points this season, which was the third-worst number in the NFL. Butker's percentage was even worse on the road as he hit just 86.2% (25 of 29) of his extra points. For the Buccaneers, Succop wasn't much better as he hit just 91.2% (52 of 57) of his extra points. Succop and Butker combined to missed 11 extra points, which is an incredibly high number when you consider that the TEN best extra point kickers this season also combined to miss 11.
Although Butker struggled early in the season on extra points, he did go seven straight games without missing one, but that streak ended in the divisional round of the playoffs when he whiffed on one during Kansas City's 22-17 win over the Browns.
According to Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub, the missed extra point in the playoffs was caused by an "operational glitch."
"It was an operational glitch that we had with the rotation of the ball; the laces came down in a weird spot," Toub said recently, via Chiefswire. "Not one time all year did that happen or in practice for that matter and it happened twice and both of those kicks we rotated a different way. It was just an operational glitch that we cleaned it up. [Butker] had a great week of practice and he was on point this week so we're good."
The operational glitch started with long snapper James Winchester, who apparently wasn't getting the correct rotation on his snaps, which gives you an idea of just how complicated kicking can be. Two guys have to do their job perfectly before the kicker even gets to put his foot on the ball.
"Winchester is so good as a snapper, he can count the rotations with his snap where the laces never appear for him for the hold, but in this case the laces appeared," Toub explained. "Now there was a combination with the weather and a little bit short, whatever we did there, we figured it out this week."
As you just read, Toub mentioned the weather as one reason for Butker's extra point struggles this year, which isn't great news for the Chiefs, because there could be some ugly weather in Tampa on Super Bowl Sunday.
Over the past 20 years, there's only been one Super Bowl that was hit with substantial rain and that came in February 2007 when the Colts beat the Bears 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI. In that game, Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri and Chicago's Robbie Gould combined to go 4 of 5 on field goals with the only miss coming from 36 yards.
As for this year's game, according to the most recent weather forecasts, the chance of rain on game day is sitting at roughly 70% and the chance of rain at kickoff is sitting at 45%.
In a normal year, Butker and the Chiefs would have flown to Florida a week before the game, which would have allowed Butker some time to get familiar with the kicking conditions in Tampa. However, due to the pandemic, Butker is stuck practicing in Kansas City all week as the Chiefs won't be flying to Tampa until Saturday. Despite the weather difference in the two cities-- it's supposed to be 42 degrees in Kansas City on Thursday compared to 63 for Tampa -- Butker doesn't think spending the week at home will have a negative impact on his kicking.
"We actually have it good here [in Kansas City] because the days we do kick outside, it will be cold and windy," Butker told reporters this week. "Going to Tampa, there might be some rain, but it it will at least be warmer and I think it should be an easier environment [for kicking] than the environment here in Kansas City."
The Chiefs kicker said he'll figure out the kicking conditions during the extended pregame warmup.
"I mainly focus on if it's going to rain and for this game, I think there's a 70% chance of rain and then how high the wind is going to be," Butker said. "The fact that we did play there and it wasn't too bad, I'm not that concerned. Luckily we have two hours on the field before the game to kind of get used to the wind as well."
Butker got to play in Tampa back in Week 12 and he hit every single one of his kicks during Kansas City's 27-24 win over the Buccaneers. Butker went 3 of 3 on extra points in that game and 2 of 2 on field goals, but those field goals were both short (19 and 29).
The fact that Butker didn't get to try anything longer is worth noting because longer field goals tend to turn into a disaster in the Super Bowl. In the 54-year history of the game, kickers have combined to hit just 48.1% of their attempts from 43 yards or longer. Although kickers have gotten stronger and more accurate over the past 20 years, that accuracy hasn't translated to the Super Bowl. Over the past 15 years, kickers have made just 53.3% of their field goal attempts from beyond 43 yards in the Super Bowl. There's so much pressure in the Super Bowl that every kick over 43 yards is basically a crapshoot.
In the four Super Bowls that have been held in Tampa, kickers have made just 75% of their kicks (9 of 12) with the misses coming from 41, 44 and 47.
Also, it's probably worth mentioning that Tampa is basically a kickers' graveyard. The Buccaneers have been churning through kickers over the years and one reason might be due to the fact that Tampa is a tough place to kick. Not only is it rainy, but it can also be windy and that wind usually only blows one way, which means a kicker has to deal with it for at least two quarters per game.
In the 2020 season, NFL kickers managed to hit just 77.8% of their kicks at Raymond James Stadium and that's only because Succop went 11 of 12 at home. If you take the home kicker out, opposing kickers were only able to convert 66.7% of their field goals (10 of 15) in Tampa. Even worse, home kickers only converted 50% of their kicks (5 of 10) from 30 yards or longer and they were just 1 of 5 from that beyond that magical 43-yard mark I mentioned earlier.
Not only did Succop only miss one field goal at home, but he also only missed one of his five extra points at home, which means he should be pretty comfortable kicking at Raymond James going into Sunday. It will be interesting to see Succop's mindset this week and that's because this could easily be labeled a revenge game for him, considering Kansas City was the team that originally drafted him.
Back in 2009, the Chiefs made Succop Mr. Irrelevant when they selected him with the 256th and final pick in the draft. The long time veteran, who had a strong bounce back season in 2020 after hitting just 1 of 6 field goals for Tennessee last year, seems pretty excited to be facing the team that once drafted him.
"It will by nice to play against my former team," Succop said this week via Kansas.com. "I still have some friends on that team that I'm close with and I still know some of the coaches and I had a great experience in Kansas City. I had a great first five years of my career there. I'm very thankful for that time and it will be good to see some of those guys again."
The Buccaneers kicker will become just the second Mr. Irrelevant to play in the Super Bowl, joining Marty Moore, who was drafted by the Patriots in 1994 and then played in Super Bowl XXXI with them.
Succop might be most known for being Mr. Irrelevant, but after Sunday, he could become a household name. Kicking is a high-pressure job and that pressure only grows on Super Bowl Sunday when more than 100 million people are watching on TV around the country. Kicking is also a lonely job, but one of these kickers will have a lot of new fans if he can boot his team to a Super Bowl win on Sunday.