October 27th, Lucas Oil Stadium - The score is 15-13. After missing two kicks earlier, it all comes down to Adam Vinatieri and his 46-year-old brittle shoulders. The game is on the line. Potential playoff implications hang in the balance. It’s do or die. Thankfully for Indianapolis, Vinatieri has been here before.
In the high pressure (literally and figuratively) situation, Vinatieri knocks it straight through the uprights. The kick looks good the entire way - a pin perfect boot from 51 yards out. It’s a microcosm of Vinatieri’s career to this point and just the latest in a long line of resilient and critical performances from his strong right leg.
Ultimately, it’s getting impossible to argue that Vinatieri isn’t the most clutch kicker of all time - and he’s still doing it while playing with a whole new generation of athletes around him. Things have changed and his body has worsened, Vinatieri’s mind continues to stay sharp.
There’s not a tougher position to play - at least mentally - then kicker. Like a triangle player in an orchestra, you are asked to do one job. That job, however, is pretty darn important. It may seem simple. But if you hit that triangle just a second late, the whole piece is tainted. The same happens out on the turf.
We’ve seen time and time again kickers (hello Chicago) falter in seemingly simple situations, and it almost always comes down to what’s happening in their head - not their leg. The importance of a strong mindset is something that can’t be understated, and a short and selective memory is crucial to success. Vinatieri just happens to possess both in spades.
Unphased in even the most dramatic of situations, the 46-year-old Vinatieri has been doing his “simple” job for more than 20 years, rebounding each time he experiences lumps. And make no mistake - he’s dealt with his demons. When most kickers go into a freefall, that’s it. Career over.
Players like Blair Walsh, Cody Parkey, and Gary Anderson haven’t been able to come back from heartbreaking misses, and although Vinatieri hasn’t experienced an unfortunate failure to that degree, he’s certainly struggled at times. The most recent example is this year.
Colts WR T.Y. Hilton on Adam Vinatieri's game-winning field goal: 'We all knew it was going in. He's made countless kicks like that throughout his career. That's why he's the G.O.A.T.' https://t.co/ozCKd0V0xo— Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNFL) October 27, 2019
The oldest player in the league, Vinatieri’s age has finally caught up to his regular play - but not when it comes to clutch situations. He may have missed two kicks last Sunday. He may have almost retired after Week 3 earlier this season after a disastrous performance. But Vinatieri is resilient, confident, and unphased. He’s done it in Super Bowls, conference championships, and even at 46 years old.
It was fair to wonder if he was still capable of leading Indy to victory at this point of his career, but make no mistake - the old man’s still got it.
When the game is on the line, Vinatieri is in his prime.