For many Kansas City Chiefs fans, unpredictability in the kicking game has long been a part of following the team — sometimes with notoriously heartbreaking results. It is fair to say, however, that the developments in Sunday’s 44-21 win above the Arizona Cardinals were unprecedented.
Senior kicker Harrison Butker left the game later rolling his ankle on a first-quarter kick. Safety Justin Reid then went one-for-two on extra point attempts after the team’s next two touchdowns. A visibly shaken Butker then returned to kick a 54-yard field goal at the end of the half — taking just one step toward the kick. Butker would kick three more extra points, while Reid would continue to handle kicks for the duration.
Chiefs assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Dave Toub revealed that in any context, he had never seen Butker make a kick like the one that closed the first half.
“I’ve never seen him take a one-step 54-yarder,” he marveled. “I’ve never seen that. I’ve seen him hit 30-yarders just to warm up – and then he goes right into his normal stride.”
While he admitted that having a kicker who can put away a field goal that quickly could provide a competitive advantage, Toub said he doesn’t expect Butker to continue the one-step move.
“I don’t think that would be normal for him – just because he would feel like he’s losing so much power,” Toub hypothesized. “Power is important to him — and it’s important to us. You don’t want to have too many different techniques. [But] there’s something to be said for how he’s been able to adjust. It says something about his professionalism, for sure.”
Toub was impressed with how Reid performed in a pinch — but we shouldn’t expect the team to be too aggressive with the league’s top safety/kicker. Toub said that during the game, he gave head coach Andy Reid an estimate of the safety’s field goal range.
“I told Andy during the game that if we had to go with him,” he recalled, “I thought if we got the ball on the 25-yard line, we’d be good with him. Which would be a 43-yard or so.”
According to Toub, Justin Reid was never a candidate to attempt the field goal at the end of the half.
“Didn’t think he hit that long,” he explained. “If we didn’t have Butker at the time — if we didn’t think we had Butker — we probably would have just gone right there. I think that was a little too far out of his range right there, realistically.”
While the Chiefs have a firm limit on relying on the unexpected backup kicker, Toub continues to be impressed with the talent of the veteran safety.
“He played soccer when he was younger,” the coach explained. “So he understands the motion of it and where the ball is supposed to be placed on his foot. Growing up, I’m sure – as a soccer player and football player – he started kicking a football at a young age, and he has talent.
“We heard that when we first got him — but then we got out, he kept bugging me about wanting to hit them in practice. When I looked at him, I was like, ‘Wow, he’s got a lot of talent.’ It’s real, and he did it. It’s incredible – but it’s also impressive.”
During Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelersthe Cincinnati Bengals lost long-snapper Clark Harris to injury – and without him in overtime, the Bengals missed several chances to win with a field goal before ultimately losing the game. Should the Chiefs find themselves in such an emergency, Toub has a player in mind: tight end Travis Kelce
“That’s why you do it,” Toub remarked, “so you don’t falter when something goes wrong. You throw a guy in – and you expect him to play at a high level. [Justin Reid] did such a good job for us jumping in there. He was definitely our special teams player of the week.”
Butker’s status for Thursday’s match against the Los Angeles Chargers remains to be seen. on monday rated injury report, he was given adid-no-practice naming. The Chiefs signed former New York Jets kicker Matt Ammendola to the practice squad on Monday.
Still, Toub wants to get back to Butker as soon as possible — and continues to say he’s a special talent comparable to the kicker widely considered the league’s best: Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens.
“He’s there neck and neck with [Tucker], in my opinion — but I’m a little biased,” he admitted. “His work ethic and everything about Butker is first rate. So I would put him right there. They’re one and two right there — those two, for sure.”