JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Adam Vinatieri has had a great career. He's 20th all-time in field-goal accuracy, seventh all-time in field goals made.
Every once in a while he'll get brought up as a potential Hall of Fame candidate, which is probably not a reflection of his entire resume but because of two kicks. He's the only kicker to hit two Super Bowl-winning field goals as time expired. He has had some other great kicks, most notably in the "Tuck Rule" playoff game in the snow against Oakland, but those Super Bowl kicks made him perhaps the most famous kicker in NFL history.
Scott Norwood is one of the most well-known kickers in NFL history as well, also because of a Super Bowl kick. He missed wide right for the Bills in the final seconds against the Giants in Super Bowl XXV. He'll always be known for that.
Of all the players in Super Bowl XLVIII, the kickers are the ones whose entire careers are most likely to be acutely defined by one play. Peyton Manning will have plenty of throws. Marshawn Lynch will likely run the ball on a ton. Nobody will care how Denver's Matt Prater or Seattle's Steven Hauschka fared in all their other kicks if they get a shot to win the game at the end. That's all that will matter.
If you think about it, that's a crazy amount of pressure. They both said this week they haven't really thought about it, how they could become legendary like a Vinatieri or infamous like a Norwood.
"I’ve been more thinking about Vinatieri, let’s put it that way," Hauschka said.
The odds say that either of these kickers, if the chance arises, have a much better chance of going down in history as a Vinatieri.
Prater was 25-of-26 on field-goal attempts this season including a 64-yarder that set a NFL record. Hauschka was 33-of-35 on field-goal attempts, and one of his misses was blocked.
Both Super Bowl kickers are tremendously good, and that's a big key in what should be a close game. But even though they almost never miss, none of those previous kicks came with 140 million people watching on TV, like Sunday's will.
The solution to blocking out the nerves is making it all physical, and not mental.
"You have been doing it for so long now so it should come pretty natural where you are not thinking about it too much," Prater said. "Just go through your normal routine and try and kick it like you have been doing all year."
For Prater, it might be a little easier to block out the enormity of kicking in the Super Bowl, since this is all relatively new for him.
"To be honest, when I was younger I didn’t ever want to be a kicker," Prater said. "I wanted to play baseball. Now that we are here, I don’t even think it has hit me yet that we are playing in the Super Bowl. I try not to think about situations and play them as they present themselves.”
Not many Super Bowls have come down to one kick, which is probably good for the mental health of the previous Super Bowl kickers. If Sunday's comes down to one, no matter how much the kickers say it's just a normal kick, it's not. But they'll try to think that way.
"The goal is just to take it like it’s any other kick," Hauschka said. "I’ve practiced the same swing since back in April and I’ve gone thousands of repetitions. The goal is just to try to get one of those out when it counts."
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