Adam Vinatieri is having a difficult season.
It got a lot worse on Sunday when the likely Hall of Fame kicker missed a go-ahead 43-yard field goal in the final moments of a 26-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The kick ended a controversial drive that saw Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin fail with a pair of pass interference challenges and added insult to the knee injury that knocked Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett out of the game in the second quarter.
Contested calls help Colts into FG position
The Colts had a chance to rally for victory when they forced a Steelers punt and took over possession at their own 15-yard-line with 2:28 remaining. Backup quarterback Bryan Hoyer’s passes on first and second down fell incomplete, and he launched a deep ball to wide receiver Zach Pascal down the sideline on third-and-10.
There was contact between Pascal and Steelers cornerback Steven Nelson, sending both players tumbling to the ground and drawing an interference penalty on Nelson, despite the ball being overthrown.
Tomlin challenged the interference call despite the precedence of an extremely high bar being set to turn over interference calls. Replay officials were consistent, and upheld the call on the field, awarding the Colts a first down at midfield.
Another pass interference challenge
On second down from the 50, Hoyer once again looked to Paschal and hit him on the sideline for a first down on a play that drew another interference challenge from Tomlin.
This time, Tomlin argued that Paschal had interfered with Nelson before making the catch. But his case on the first penalty was stronger. Once again, the call on the field was upheld.
The big plays set Vinatieri up for the chance to be a hero — a role the 24-year veteran has relished throughout his career. But a bad hold set up an even worse kick that missed badly wide left and allowed the Steelers to run out the clock for the win.
The kick play got off to an ominous start when holder Rigoberto Sanchez took the snap and immediately turned the laces in toward Vinatieri, the cardinal mistake a holder can make.
As bad as the hold was, the kick was worse, immediately shanking left and sailing wide into the outstretched hands of a Steelers fan in the stands well outside the left hash mark.
Hold or kick to blame?
It’s difficult to say if the hold is at fault here. The kick was terrible, but did Vinatieri panic and mis-kick because the laces were staring at him when he approached the ball?
“Listen, I gotta make them all,” Vinatieri told reporters after the game, per The Athletic. “That’s just part of the deal. It doesn’t matter. You gotta make everything.”
Head coach Frank Reich expressed confidence in the three-time All-Pro kicker.
“Still have all the confidence in the world in Adam,” Reich said.
Rough go for Vinatieri
It’s the latest misfire in a tough season for the 46-year-old kicker, who missed two field goals and an extra point in a Week 1 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. After missing two extra points in a Week 2 win over the Tennessee Titans, Vinatieri appeared to hint toward retirement before declaring later in the week that he was going to continue playing.
In addition to the missed field goal Sunday, Vinatieri saw an extra point earlier in the game blocked.
For the season, he’s connected on 12-of-17 field-goal attempts and 14-of-19 extra-point attempts.
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