linkGiven the stingy defenses of Denver and Pittsburgh, Elam knows Sunday’s AFC Championship showdown could come down to a late field goal. In his career, he’s drilled 19 game-winning or game-tying field goals. And from 40 yards in, Elam is as accurate as they come. He’s made 223 of 239 kicks (93 percent) from inside the 40, the fourth-best percentage in the NFL since 1993. “You always prepare yourself for those kinds of games, where fourth-quarter kicks are big,” Elam said. “I’m not going to prepare any differently for this game than any of the other ones.”
linkBecause the air is thinner, there will be less drag on the ball as it travels, said University of Pittsburgh physicist Adam Leibovich. "In principle, the ball should go further in Denver" when it is thrown with the same amount of force, Leibovich said.
Although the drag effect could disrupt the Steelers' throwing game if Roethlisberger can't adjust quickly, it should come as good news to field-goal kicker Jeff Reed. "If you know your kicker's range is 45 yards at sea level, he might be able to get 50 yards in Denver," said Robert Chapman, a kinesiology professor at Indiana University at Bloomington and a world-renowned authority on altitude training.
linkGolf is about the closest comparison you can come up with for the mechanics of a field-goal kicker. "It's just our club is our leg," said the Seahawks' Josh Brown.
Brown even has his own swing coach he visits in the offseason to examine his mechanics. So it figures Brown would be a pretty good golfer, and he is with a 10 handicap.
linkIf kicker John Kasay makes his next two postseason field goal attempts, he will become the NFL's all-time leader in postseason accuracy. Kasay has made 21 of 23 career attempts for a 91.3 accuracy rate, trailing only Martin Gramatica's 91.7 rate.
linkGreatest Sports Moment: "Still coming. Hasn't happened yet."
Most Painful Moment: "I think the one that probably had the biggest influence was kicking the ball out of bounds in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago. Just put us in a bad spot. That's probably the kick -- of all my years -- God, if I could have that one back ..."
Embarrassing Football Memory: "I remember my second year in the league maybe, I was going to kick a field goal in Denver (with Seattle). And I slipped on my first step. So the holder (Rick Tuten) caught the ball and put it down. And he's concentrated on what he's doing -- he doesn't know that I've slipped. So I'm standing on my hands and knees (yelling), I FELL! I FELL! I FELL! He's like, Uh huh? (What happened?) Then he got pretty much crushed."
Of these four kickers, Kasay is the most frequent extra point misser during the regular season...Kasay misses an extra point on average every 1.3 years.
linkKasay a Clutch Kicker
CHARLOTTE — Okay, so you’re looking for a kicker who can consistently make some clutch field goals for your team in the playoffs. Who would you want?
Adam Vinatieri? Nice choice. However, even though Vinatieri has won a pair of Super Bowls for the New England Patriots on last-second kicks, he’s actually only made 76 percent (26 of 34) of his field goal attempts in the postseason.
Mike Vanderjagt? Ummm, Not after last week’s way, way, way wide right.
Scott Norwood? OK, just kidding.
The reality is the second-most accurate field goal kicker in postseason history is right here in Carolina and his name is John Kasay. Although Kasay battled through a slump earlier this year in the regular season, few kickers are better when it comes to postseason accuracy. In fact, there’s only one. Kasay has converted 21 of 23 field goal attempts, or 91.3 percent, which trails only former Tampa Bay kicker Martin Gramatica in the NFL annals. With two successful field goals on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game, Kasay would move past Gramatica as the most accurate playoff kicker in league history.
There were some questions about Kasay after he missed 8 of 10 field goal attempts from beyond 40 yards during a 10-week span in the middle of the season. Even Fox expressed concern at the time, saying the Panthers needed him to make those kicks. But in the last four games, including playoff wins over the Chicago Bears and New York Giants, Kasay is a perfect 11-for-11, including 6-for-6 in the postseason.
Kasay, who is about as even keel as they come, said he doesn’t approach the postseason any differently than he would a regular season game. And, he refuses to let the game become bigger than just that - a game. That sort of laidback approach may contribute to Kasay’s coolness under pressure. “You make the practice like it was a game and the game like it was a practice,” Kasay said. “My value and worth is not based on my performance. I do the best I can and Lord willing things go well. You deal with failure and success. I deal with it on every play. It’s either failure or success. It’s cut and dry.”
Now I know what you’re thinking: But what about that kickoff in the Super Bowl — that wasn’t coolness under pressure, now was it? The sad part about Kasay’s legacy with the Panthers is that despite having won numerous games for this team over the years, many Carolina fans still haven’t forgiven him for booting a kickoff out of bounds in final two minutes of Super Bowl XXXVIII after the Panthers had fought back to the tie the game at 29. After New England quarterback Tom Brady moved the Patriots into field goal range, Vinatieri hammered home a 41-yarder with four seconds left to defeat the Panthers.
So does Kasay enjoy having the game rest on his leg? His answer probably might surprise you. “It’s not a day at the beach, for sure,” Kasay said. “It’s something that you prepare for; it’s something that you try to make as familiar and as comfortable as you can. I think that’s one of the benefits to a guy who has played more than one or two years - because you get thrown in that situation a lot. When you have success and when you have failure, you still have to come back. ... It’s the nature of what I do, and that’s part of it.”
linkTrusting own ability Elam's stress relief
Elam has made a pretty good living in the playoffs. He has made 14 of 17 career field-goal attempts, including field goals of 50 and 34 yards Saturday. His 51-yarder in Super Bowl XXXII was the second longest in the game's history. In the AFC Championship Game in January 1999, Elam scored 11 points in blustery conditions against the Jets, a game the kicker considers one of the pinnacle individual performances of his 13 pro seasons.
"You're always keeping your fingers crossed that a guy comes through for you," Denver coach Mike Shanahan said. "And I have a lot of confidence in Jason."
Confidence is a funny thing for a kicker.
Elam recounted a conversation he once had with Hall of Fame kicker Jan Stenerud. During stressful situations, Stenerud told Elam, he used to wish the offense would punt, but the farther the ball moved down the field, there was a "big transition in his head" where he talked himself into the moment. "Part of you really wants it, and part of you, there's some stress there," Elam said.
The way Elam combats those mixed emotions is by attempting to stick to his routine, stay calm and try to treat each kick the same, whether it's a preseason extra point or the winner. It's the same approach he's taking this week. "It crosses your mind every once in a while that it's the AFC championship, but it's not any different," Elam explained. "It's that whole thing that pressure's a perception, not a reality. It's what you allow to be put on yourself."