The 2011 Super Bowl may very well come down to a field goal and if thats the case, we could only be so lucky.
Just think of the memorable title games that have been made or broken by a single kick.
Adam Vinatieri’s last-second heroics against the heavily-favored Rams.
Scott Norwood’s close shave with the right upright from 47 yards away in Super Bowl XXV.
The indelible gaffe by Miami kicker Garo Yeprmian, whose botched attempt at throwing a blocked field goal against the Redskins nearly cost the Dolphins Super Bowl VII and an undefeated season in 1972.
This year, the mark of hero or villain may be reserved for Mason Crosby or Shaun Suisham, both of whom are worthy of praise, so the statistics say.
But which kicker elicits the most confidence?, specifically in those final seconds when the tension surrounding a game-winning boot can be overwhelmingly palpable?
Let’s attempt to find an answer by first looking at the broader picture.
Suisham has played nearly two full seasons more than Crosby, who is in his fourth year as the Green Bay starter.
In five-plus seasons with Dallas, San Francisco, Washington, and now the Steelers, Suisham has converted 80 percent (101-of-125) of his kicks.
Crosby has been busier over the course of his career, attempting 137 field goals, but his conversion rate of 78 percent is slightly lower.
Taking into account this season alone, Suisham, who was actually cut by Pittsburgh prior to the 2005 season, has been the more reliable kicker. And despite the smaller sample size, it’s not really close.
In seven games with Pittsburgh, Suisham has made all but one of his 15 field goals, with the lone miss coming against Baltimore in the divisional round playoff game.
It’s even more impressive considering the reputation of Heinz Field, which is considered one of the harder places to kick in the league with its open-ended design.
As for Crosby, he’s made 78.6 percent of his 28 kicks this season, but his number of attempts nearly doubles that of Suisham, who had not played at all this season before being signed by Pittsburgh to replace the released Jeff Reed in November.
Plus, you could argue that it’s just as challenging kicking off the frozen tundra at Lambeau as it is in Pittsburgh during the winter months.
Crosby, known around the league as having one of the game’s stronger legs, has a long this season of 56 yards, compared to Suisham’s 48.
Surprisingly though, Crosby is less efficient from long range, making good on 10 of his 14 kicks from 40 yards or more, including 2-of-4 from 50-plus.
Suisham, while he has not attempted a field goal this season of 50-plus yards, is 8-of-9 from anywhere between 40 and 49 yards.
Now, let’s talk situational numbers, which could factor heavily into any scenario that creeps up in Super Bowl XLV.
Neither kicker has any trouble performing on an artificial surface, which is what they’ll see at Cowboys Stadium. The only miss between both players belongs to Crosby, and that was from 40-plus yards.
Though slim, the most telling margin between the two kickers exists when the game is, or could possibly be, in the balance.
When the game is either tied or in the fourth quarter, Suisham has yet to miss this season. He kicked the clincher to give the Steelers a crucial 19-16 overtime win at Buffalo in Week 12.
Crosby has been respectable in clutch situations, but not perfect, missing two of his 11 fourth-quarter field goals and two of seven when the game has been tied.
So, who would you rather have lining up the game-winning kick?
The numbers clearly favor Suisham, but Crosby would need but one solid kick to render any statistical comparisons completely meaningless.
Let’s hope one of the two gets to prove his worth in the Super Bowl.