“He’s having a Pro Bowl year.”
During the latest edition of the Cover 1 Film Room, former NFL kicker, and current CBS analyst Jay Feely discussed how Tyler Bass has been nearly automatic during this season. By this time last year, Buffalo Bills fans wondered if the franchise had made a mistake taking Bass in the sixth round, and cutting Stephen Hauschka in the process.
How important is a holder to a kicker? @jayfeely breaks it down for us, and it will blow your mind.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) November 17, 2021
Bass struggled early in his Bills’ career, missing a couple of FGs in his first game, missing a PAT in Week 4 against the Raiders, and missing a few more FGs in the following weeks. However, it was clear that Bass had found some sort of rhythm or mojo down the stretch, and took that energy into the playoffs where his kicks against the Indianapolis Colts helped maintain enough of a lead for the Bills to outlast them for their first playoff win in over two decades. Bass struggled in tough winds against Baltimore, and the Bills struggled all around against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship to end the season.
Ultimately, Bills fans felt much better about Bass by the end of the season, feeling they had a kicker who not only was good at his job, but embodied the strange, confident, high-energy that every Bills fan has.
This season has not continued to be the same for Bass, because he’s taken his game to another level of elite play.
Some might say that it’s about Bass just getting his feet (pun intended) wet during his rookie season, and that this is natural progression. Some of that might be true, but the reality is that Bass is having a nearly perfect season. Through week 10, Bass is 19/20 on FGs, with his only miss being a 53 yarder against the Dolphins before halftime. He is 100% on PATs, and over 55% of his kickoffs are touchbacks. That level of production and high level play isn’t just normal player development, especially at such a volatile position, it’s the product of the work that Bass has put in, the confidence he has, and perhaps a little help from a controversial player.
There was confusion and perhaps some distasteful feelings when the Bills decided not to bring back punter Corey Bojorquez after his stellar season punting in 2020. The Bills signed from Dolphins punter Matt Haack who Bills fans had last seen trying desperately to tackle Isaiah McKenzie on a punt return in the 2020 regular season finale.
But the Bills made it clear that their decision wasn’t solely based on punting, but on another critical factor in Tyler Bass’s production this season: holding.
Jay Feely made it clear that he felt Bass’s early struggles as a rookie were in part due to Corey Bojorquez’s inconsistent holding.
“A bad holder could make me miss every kick, and no one would know it. If he misses that spot by 2 inches, and he’s 2 inches back, I’m gonna push the ball, if it’s 2 inches forward, I’m gonna pull the ball.”
Feely went into much more detail about the angles of the ball when it hits the ground, how the kicker see the laces and feels confident in the kick, how some kickers prefer the ball to be at an angle, where the holder should or shouldn’t be catching the ball, etc. But suffice it to say, holding, like the other parts of football, is an extremely detail-oriented job. Former Pro Bowl punter Pat McAfee talked about how he had no idea how to hold a FG coming out of college, and when he was drafted by the Colts, Adam Vinatieri sent him to his former holder, Ken Walter to learn how to hold FGs for him.
Unfortunately, the details of that are lost among fans and even many analysts. Few people understand the intricacies of holding and how it affects the Kicker’s performance. Bojorquez is still struggling to find consistency holding in Green Bay, as was evidenced by the bizarre exchange of missed kicks in the Packers-Bengals game.
Meanwhile, in Buffalo, the snap, hold, kick operation is clean, crisp, and consistent. Matt Haack may not be a strong punter in the NFL, but his holding ability is extremely valuable to the Bills and Tyler Bass. Bills fans can complain about inconsistent punting from Matt Haack, and it’s a valid criticism, but if they’re also going to praise Tyler Bass, they should acknowledge how important Haack’s presence has been for Bass’s consistency. A bad punt can hurt your defense from time to time, but bad holding can clearly make it nearly impossible to hit FGs or PATs, and in the end, football is about scoring points.
Tyler Bass deserves all the credit in the world for taking the next step forward as one of the best kickers in the NFL, but credit also goes to Matt Haack for making sure everyone can see just how talented and elite Bass is as well.
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