MIAMI -- When Super Bowl LIV kicks off on Sunday, the game will feature two of the most accurate kickers in NFL history in Kansas City's Harrison Butker and San Francisco's Robbie Gould. Despite that fact, both coaches might want to think twice before attempting a field goal this week, and that's because kicking in the Super Bowl is almost always a gamble, especially in Miami.
Kicking the ball through the uprights might sound easy, but when more than 100 million people are watching you on TV around the world, the magnitude of moment has been known to conquer even the NFL's best kickers over the years.
Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, who will almost certainly end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has even struggled in the Super Bowl. Yes, he has hit two game-winners, but in five career Super Bowls, Vinatieri has hit just 70 percent of his field goals (7 of 10), which is well below his career average of 83.8 percent.
If Vinatieri can struggle, then anyone can, and the Super Bowl has proven that over its 53-year history. Since the first Super Bowl was played after the 1966 season, kickers have only hit 54.9% of their field goal attempts from beyond 40 yards and no kicker has made a field goal from longer than 54. To put that in perspective, NFL kickers combined to hit 69.3% of their kicks between 40 and 54 yards in 2019, which is nearly 15% better than Super Bowl kickers.
Although kickers have gotten stronger and more accurate, that accuracy hasn't translated to the Super Bowl. Over the past 10 years, kickers have made just 66.7 of their field goal attempts from beyond 40 yards in the Super Bowl. There's so much pressure in the Super Bowl that every kick over 40 yards is basically a crapshoot.
This year is going to add a twist to things because the game is going to be played outside. In two of the past three Super Bowls that have been played outdoors, there's been at least one missed field goal. Also, this game is being played in Miami, which hasn't exactly been an easy place to play for Super Bowl kickers.
Since Hard Rock Stadium opened in 1987, there have been a total of five Super Bowls played there and kickers have combined to go 18 of 26 (69.2%). Not only that, but there's been at least one missed field goal in every Super Bowl that's ever been played at the stadium. Every. Single. One.
If you're wondering which coach should be more worried about his kicking game on Sunday, that would probably be Kyle Shanahan. Although Robbie Gould is the eighth most accurate kicker in NFL history, that's not something he'll probably be bragging about this week, and that's because he was the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history going into the 2019 season, before he tumbled down a few spots after hitting just 74.3% of his kicks this year.
Of course, not all of that was Gould's fault. The 49ers special teams underwent a lot of transition in 2019 and that led to some major struggles in the kicking game. Not only does San Francisco have a rookie holder in Australian punter Mitch Wishnowsky, but they also went through three different long snappers this year -- Garrison Sanborn, Colin Holba, Jon Condo -- before settling on a fourth one (Kyle Nelson) who will be the starter on Sunday.
The kicker-holder-snapper combo finally hit a groove as the season came to an end, as Gould has hit 13 straight field goals, including the postseason. However, there's no way to know how a rookie holder or a long snapper will react under the intense pressure of the Super Bowl.
The good news for the 49ers is that Gould is literally the most accurate kicker in NFL history in the postseason. Gould is 13-for-13 on field goals, which includes going 1-for-1 in his only other Super Bowl appearance back in 2006 when the Bears lost to the Colts 29-17 at HARD ROCK STADIUM. (the missed kick in that Miami game actually game from VInatieri).
Basically, if the hold and snap get down, Gould should be golden, but there's no guarantee that's going to happen.
As for the Chiefs, they'll be going into the game with the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history in Butker, who has a career field goal percentage of 89.7%, which ranks only behind Justin Tucker. Although the Chiefs might not have to worry about Butker in the field goal department, extra points could be a small concern for them going into the game. During the regular season, Butker made just 93.8% of his extra points, which ranked 20th in the NFL. The Chiefs kicker also missed an extra point against the Texans in the playoffs, and it's pretty clear that his misses are starting to concern Chiefs fans.
Something feels like Butker will miss an extra point that will cost the game— KevEgg65 (@Egg657) January 19, 2020
The one piece of good news for both kickers this week is that the weather is expected to be perfect. The kickoff temperature is estimated to be roughly 66 degrees with winds blowing at 5 to 10 mph, which is nearly ideal weather for a kicker. With those conditions, these two kickers have a chance to become the first pair in NFL history to make it through a Super Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium without a miss.