NASHVILLE — There are plenty of reasons that the Tennessee Titans (6-3) cost themselves a golden opportunity to strengthen their AFC South grip on Thursday Night Football. Instead, a total collapse on special teams opened the door for the Indianapolis Colts (6-3) to come to town and kick Tennessee’s teeth in 34-17.

Every pun(t) intended.

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski represented only a small piece of the disastrous puzzle that was the Titans Thursday Night outing. The two-time All Pro’s 2020 consistent inconsistencies, though, linger over the fan base and his new team’s season like silent-but-deadly flatulence. Gostkowski’s missed 44-yard field goal against Indianapolis puts him at 6-of-13 from inside of 50 yards this season. What makes those numbers even more bizarre is that the same kicker is 6-of-7 from 50+ yards.

So, where lies the disconnect?

Make It Make Sense

Nov 8, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo (70) congratulates kicker Stephen Gostkowski (3) after the made field goal against the Chicago Bears during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

How does a four-time Pro Bowl player and 5th most accurate kicker (87.4%) in NFL history see one season where his percentage for the year dips to 60% and, as a result, drops his career accuracy to 73.7%?

“I wouldn’t have the slightest clue,” coach Mike Vrabel said Friday in his Zoom availability. “Whether you’re shooting a free throw in basketball or you’re trying to make a putt, the closer you get to the target, I guess, the numbers would say and do say that you have a better chance of making it. So, I can’t tell you. I wouldn’t know. We certainly just have to kick better on all fronts.”

You can break down field goal percentage in the NFL by every yard line if one is so inclined.

Looking at a full season of data in 2019 for the most complete sample size, kickers averaged roughly 70% from 40 yards. Those numbers fluctuated between to 60-70% between 40-49. Attempts at 50-55 yards ranged from averages of 53-61% and dropped to 35% at 55 yards or more.

Complementary Football

Nov 12, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich and Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel talk during pre-game warm ups at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

With a red zone offense like Tennessee’s (3rd), Gostkowski gets fewer short attempts than the average NFL kicker. Colts rookie Rodrigo Blankenship has made 19 of his 21 field goals this year but has not been asked to try a kick of 50 yards or more for juxtaposition. Gostkowski’s seven attempts from inside the kicker sweet spot of 44 yards and in (3-of-7) are among the lowest in the NFL.

Factor in that two of those seven field goal tries were blocked when the Titans kicking (and punting protection) has been suspect and the numbers make much more sense.

“I think we’re going to have to evaluate everything that we do, how we’re coaching, what we do in practice, the performance,” Vrabel said Thursday night. “So, we have to be better and I’ll say that in all areas. So, we’ll look at what we’re doing and try to do what’s best for the team like we always do, but we all have jobs to do and we have to try to do them better.”

If Tennessee opts to reevaluate at kicker, Vrabel and GM Jon Robinson must take care to understand the positions Gostkowski’s being put in.

Featured Image: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports.
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