ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop blasted field goals down the middle in practice the other day. From 42 yards, from 52 yards, from 48 yards.…
He looked like the kicker who made a franchise-record six field goals in six chances last season at New Orleans, and not the one who experienced some uncharacteristic and team-deflating misses.
Succop made 28 of 34 attempts last season, his second-best percentage (82.4) since his rookie season of 2009 when his 25 of 29 (85.2) tied an NFL record as the best percentage by a rookie.
And in the process, Succop became the franchise’s leader in career field-goal percentage, having made 97 of 119 (81.6).
But it’s easier to remember the misses than the makes, and how to explain that miss from 40 yards in the season opener at home against Atlanta … the 39-yarder just before the half at San Diego … a 33-yarder at Pittsburgh in a game the Chiefs would lose in overtime … a 27-yarder that hit the upright at Cleveland?
In a statistical oddity, the average distance of his six misses, 35.8 yards, was shorter than the average distance of his 28 made field goals that averaged 37.6 yards. Succop realizes he left a lot of points on the field last year.
“It’s part of being in the NFL,” he said. “When I first came to Kansas City, my special teams coach, Steve Hoffman, said, ‘As a placekicker in the NFL, there are going to be a lot of ups, and a lot of downs. Hopefully you have a lot more ups, and when you have the downs, it’s all about how you respond to them. If something doesn’t go the way you want it, then let’s go back and get the next one, because that’s the one that matters.’”
The Chiefs handed Succop a five-year, $14 million contract extension after the 2011 season, when he made 24 of 30 field goals, including all three of his tries from beyond 50 yards. They still believe in him because they did not bring in anyone to compete for the kicking job in training camp.
New special teams coordinator Dave Toub, and Kevin O’Dea, his assistant who accompanied him from Chicago, are working to solve some of Succop’s inconsistencies.
“Kevin is the kicking guy … he studies it, he knows it … (Bears kicker) Robbie Gould calls him the most knowledgeable kicking coach in the league,” Succop said. “Working with Kevin and Dave, they’ve been able to pull a lot of knowledge into what I do. It’s been great to be all ears and learn from their experiences, and putting the stuff into practice is really going to help me.
“A lot of it’s the mental approach to it. We’re trying to be mentally strong, and there is some mechanical stuff we’re working on. Not anything drastic. Just some small changes, particularly dealing with the follow-through, the finish. Try to go more toward the target, not coming across the body as much.”
Toub and O’Dea put Succop through a drill where they line him up from a spot outside the hash marks and near the sideline, causing extreme angles to the goal posts.
“If you trust your line, if you know you can hit the ball where you want it to go, that’s all you need to worry about,” Toub said. “So you get in a game, you pick a spot, whatever the wind is, you say, ‘I’m going to hit it right here, and if hit it on that line, and know it’s going to go through …’
“If some kind of wind gust blows and blows it out, there’s nothing you can do about that. As long as you can hit your line, we’re fine with that. He’s getting to that point where he’s building that confidence.”
Succop won’t have to worry about any wind in Friday night’s preseason opener at the Louisiana Superdome. His performance there last year, capped by a 43-yard field goal that sent the game into overtime and the 31-yard game winner, had additional meaning for Succop.
“When I look back, that was special for a lot of reasons,” Succop said. “Not just the 6 for 6 and the one to tie and the one to win, but my wife’s aunt had cancer at the time, and her family is from Louisiana. She brought her whole family, and we got to share that moment with her.
“She’s since passed away, but it was neat how it all came together. She got to be there for it, and it was a special day.”