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The rare double game-winning field goal miss is a feat worth celebrating

SB Nation logo SB Nation 12/21/2020 Ryan Nanni
a group of football players on the field © Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

On the evening of December 17th, locked in a tie with the Las Vegas Raiders and with 51 seconds left on the clock, the Los Angeles Chargers missed a field goal. The Raiders soon lined up for a kick of their own; that failed when the holder couldn’t get the snap down. My brain said, “Huh! Two teams missing field goals in the last minute of a tie game! I wonder when that last happened? Let’s go to Pro Football Reference and find out.”

Two teams hadn’t both failed on field goal attempts in the final minute of a tie game since … the Jaguars and Vikings played on December 6th, 2020. (Way to go, stupid brain.) But before that, it hadn’t happened since 2007. PFR’s archives, which go back to 1994, only show five games total with this double-miss.

That’s not entirely surprising when you consider the necessary underlying circumstances. The game has to be tied late. The first team’s kicker has to miss. The second team has to have enough time left to get into field goal position, and decide to use it rather than just going to overtime. And the second kicker has to miss.

(I’m using “miss” here when technically that’s not what happened in Chargers-Raiders, at least not on both attempts. Michael Badgley’s kick for the Bolts sailed wide, while Las Vegas couldn’t even get a kick off on what would have been a 65 yard attempt. We can all agree, however, that neither of these plays resulted in a made field goal.)

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Numerical hot take: NFL kickers make most of their attempts. In the fifteen-plus years the PFR archives cover, 78 percent of the kicks that have been tried with the game tied and a minute or less to go have been good. And most of the misses have been from 50 yards out or more, which was the case with both attempts in the Chargers-Raiders game and in Vikings-Jaguars a couple of weeks prior.

Still, pro football’s gifted us with two incredibly rare endings to games in the span of a single month. Roger Goodell’s generosity truly knows no bounds.

There is, however, another, even rarer variant of the double miss that I stumbled upon doing this research. It’s so unlikely and bizarre that it’s only happened once since 1994, and it may never happen again: the SAME team misses two field goals in the last minute of the game.

On December 28, 2003, the Ravens and Steelers found themselves tied 10-10 at the two-minute warning. Baltimore, holding the ball at the Pittsburgh 40, ran three plays but couldn’t pick up a first down, and the Steelers burned their second timeout after their third-down stop. Matt Stover ran out to attempt a 52 yard field goal with 46 seconds to play. He missed, and the Steelers took over close to midfield.

But two plays later, Tommy Maddox threw an interception that gave the Ravens the ball back. Two plays and 32 yards after that, they’d moved back into almost the exact same spot from which Stover had just missed. With five seconds left they sent out Wade Richey, who’d kicked exactly one field goal for them that year, a make from 56 yards out in Week 2.

Richey missed this time, and the game went to overtime. Baltimore eventually won (on a Matt Stover field goal, no less), but the victory wasn’t the point. The history was. The stupid, stupid history.


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