Last year after Steven Hauschka missed a field goal with the half expiring against the Patriots in week four, I was upset. I was watching from the 300 level, and even after being down 13-0, the Ralph was as loud as I had ever heard it in my life as a Micah Hyde interception and a three-and-out started to turn the tide. It was a 49-yard field goal to bring the game back within one possession with the Bills getting the ball after the half; how do you miss that? A 49-yarder is commonplace in the NFL now. It was momentary heartbreak, but I had moved on after the Bills came out of halftime strong with Josh Allen completing seven passes and ultimately sneaking into the end zone for a touchdown.
Two games and a bye week later, the Bills had a chance to improve to 6-1 against a reeling but still highly touted Philadelphia Eagles team. Down by four and with 25 seconds left, Allen put the Bills into field goal range with a scramble, where he had the intelligence and awareness to take off and call a timeout while he was sliding and before the play was even over. Hauschka came on to attempt a 53-yard field goal to make it a one-point game at the half, and again, he missed. This attempt would also slowly leave my memory as the team unraveled throughout the rest of the game. It seemed unreasonable to blame a loss like this on one missed field goal before the half.
Another two weeks went by, and the Bills found themselves in a position to improve to 7-2 against the loudmouth Browns and prove ‘process and culture over unruly talent’ and become a well-known threat league-wide. After consecutive defensive possessions where the defense stopped the Browns on eight consecutive plays on the goal line and allowed zero points, and then holding them to a field goal on the goal line, Hauschka would come on with an opportunity to give the Bills a one-point lead heading into halftime with a 34-yard field goal attempt. He missed again. Suddenly, the Eagles and Patriots games were weighing heavy in my memory. More time would pass and the Bills would put points on the board and have the game presumably sealed after Jerry Hughes took a fumble to the house late in the game to put the Bills up by two possessions. However, as we all remember, that play got called back on a questionable interpretation of the rules and the Browns would go on to take a three point lead that drive. With 1:44 on the clock, Allen again led the Bills into field goal range and McDermott would send Hauschka on the field with 22 seconds left and a three-point deficit. Hauschka would miss another 53-yard field goal and the Bills were going home as a 19-16 loser.
After the Browns game it became clear that Hauschka was not the answer at kicker, and there was mild speculation about the Bills making a move at kicker only for them to stick it out for the rest of the season.
This past weekend, the Bills selected Tyler Bass from Georgia Southern in the 2020 NFL Draft. Bass has been circling around Twitter with a one-step 60 yard field goal that he drills with room to spare. This begs the question, just how much did kicking affect the Bills last season?
From 50+ yards, the Bills left a league high 12 points on the field with four missed field goals. Hauschka went a substandard 1/5 from 50-plus yards and had a weak 20% success rate, compared to the league average of 58%. When including 40-plus yard field goal attempts, the Bills were tied for fourth in the league, leaving 15 points on the field. These are only objective numbers, though, and when you dig deeper, the poor kicking had a much larger effect on play-calling.
I went back through the season and compiled every time that the Bills either went for it on fourth down or punted within range of a 59-yard field goal. Within 59 yards, the Bills had passed on a field goal attempt 24 times. They only converted four of those drives into points, scoring a total of 24 points. Had they taken the field goal each time, there was a possibility for up to 72 points. If we take out the four drives they scored on, the Bills left 60 points on the field (3 points per field goal, 20 drives). Sixty points isn’t a negligible amount, regardless of whether it comes down to coach confidence or a willingness to risk points in order to try and score a touchdown. If you add the 15 points from missed field goals, then these 75 points would’ve moved the Bills from the 23rd-highest scoring offense all the way up to the 12th.
Now, I know that asking for 59-yard field goals isn’t exactly realistic. If you limit the data down to every time the Bills had either punted or went for it within a 53-yard field goal, the results are still concerning. In this scenario the Bills left 18 points on the field. With the 15 from missed field goals, that’s 33 total points missed with an opportunity to have had 18th highest scoring offense. This is still a marked improvement from 23rd.
Whether it be Steven Hauschka or Tyler Bass attempting our field goals in 2020, us fans will still ‘cheers’ to them from the stands in hopes that they come up big when our offense comes up short. Let’s bring those extra 63 points home next year.