The distance for many teams between winning and losing is 18 feet, 6 inches—the measurement between the two field goal posts.
One of the more overlooked portions of the games, kickers have the unique ability to make or break the efforts of the rest of the roster, while contributing to only a small handful of plays. In the case of missed field goals, a failed swing of the leg can be cause for panic, outrage and anger.
This is all for good reason: In tight games, a missed kick can be beyond devastating. For teams fighting for limited playoff spaces, the three points can be the difference between postseason glory and an early offseason.
Here are the most devastating missed field goals in the history of each NFL team.
The Arizona Cardinals blew a big lead against the Chicago Bears in their October 2006 matchup, but felt the deepest sting from a missed kick from Neil Rackers.
Rackers missed from 41 yards with less than a minute left in the game, in what would have surely been the game winner.
After the game, then-Cardinals head coach proclaimed that not only were the Bears "who we thought they were," but also that the Cardinals "let them off the hook."
Bonus kicker disaster: Bill Gramatica's overexcited celebration left him on the injured list, something I'm sure he was kicking himself about.
The Atlanta Falcons hurt badly after a game-ending miss from kicker Morten Andersen. The Falcons, playing the Jacksonville Jaguars in the last week of the 1996 season, set Anderson up with a 30-yard field goal that looked too easy to miss.
However, Andersen came up wide, and the Jacksonville Jaguars were able to clinch a spot in the playoffs with the win.
The Baltimore Ravens found themselves unlikely saviors for the Miami Dolphins, helping them from going winless.
The Ravens were sunk in overtime on a missed 44-yard field goal from Matt Stover. The Dolphins responded almost immediately, scoring on a 64-yard touchdown reception from Greg Camarillo.
The Dolphins would end the season with a 1-15 record.
In one of the most painful field goal misses in NFL history, kicker Scott Norwood broke the hearts of Buffalo Bills fans with his gut-wrenching miss in the Super Bowl against the New York Giants.
Lining up a difficult 47-yard kick at the end of regulation, his miss evoked two words from commentator Al Michaels, who was calling the game for ABC.
Norwood would have redemption the following year, as his third quarter field goal in the AFC Championship would prove to be the difference as the Bills defeated the Denver Broncos.
The odds were almost as long as the kick, but the missed attempt from the Carolina Panthers John Kasay definitely stings for fans of the team.
In the final game of the season, the Panthers, going up against the New Orleans Saints, found themselves down 21-18 with time running out. Using a little trickery to get it past midfield, the Panthers set themselves up for a 60-yard attempt.
Kasay, who had already made a 54-yard kick earlier in the game, found his kick blocked by the Saints Tony Bryant, and with that the Panthers' day was over.
The lost game ended up being the difference, as the Panthers would miss the playoffs.
Paul Edinger, who played with the Chicago Bears from 2000 to 2004, has the unique distinction of having the team's first kick blocked and returned for a touchdown.
The kick took place in the team's Sept. 2004 matchup against the Detroit Lions. The kick, blocked by the Lions' Shaun Rogers, was then returned for a touchdown by Bryce Walker.
Edinger expressed shock about the play, saying "The kick felt good," adding that "the next thing I knew, I was trying to make a play."
The Cincinnati Bengals needed a boost from their kicking game, but found themselves disappointed by the play of kicker Shayne Graham.
Graham missed two kicks in the team's 2010 wild card round playoff game against the New York Jets. Though the team's margin of losing was more than the two kicks (the final score was 24-14), both of the kicks deserve recognition for their poor timing.
The Cleveland Browns were majorly disappointed in the 1980 AFC Divisional playoff game against the Oakland Raiders, as kicker Don Cockroft was not at the top of his game.
Cockroft missed a 30-yard field goal, had an extra point blocked and saw his holder bumble a snap, ruining another attempt.
The Browns would end up losing 14-12.
In one of the more dramatic finishes in NFL playoff history, the Dallas Cowboys were primed to win with a late field goal against the Seattle Seahawks.
However, the kick was not to be, as a hold by quarterback Tony Romo slipped from his hands, ending the attempt. Romo then attempted to run the yardage to get to either the first down marker or the end zone, but was stopped feet short of the line.
The Cowboys lost the game 21-20.
With the Denver Broncos cruising through the playoffs, they probably didn't imagine their kicker David Treadwell hurting their effort.
Playing in the 1991 AFC Championship game, Treadwell missed a painful three kicks, as the Broncos played the Buffalo Bills and their kicker Scott Norwood.
The Bills would eventually win 10-7.
Playing a tough game against the San Francisco 49ers, the Detroit Lions were getting a great performance from their kicker Eddie Murray. However, he couldn't finish the job.
Set up with a 42-yard kick with five seconds remaining, Murray's kick found itself just wide. The Lions would end up losing 24-23.
Even worse, the missed kick resulted in teammates kicking up some drama on the plane ride back to the Motor City.
The Green Bay Packers' Paul Hornung had a reputation of being a pretty solid kicker, at least until the 1964 season.
During the year, Hornung made only 31 percent of his kicks, and cost the team several games. In the best examples, the Packers lost games against the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Colts solely on extra points he missed.
While he had a great career, his kicking misses late in his playing days definitely left a nasty taste in fans' mouths.
With the game on the line, it can be hoped that a kicker can come through.
The Houston Texans found themselves disappointed, as their kicker Kris Brown missed a 31-yard kick with time expiring that would have tied the game.
The Texans would lose to the Tennessee Titans 13-10.
Indianapolis Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt had no problem talking up a big game, but against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2005 AFC Divisional Round, he couldn't back it up with his play.
Given a chance to tie the game with time running out, he dinked a 46-yarder wide, and the Colts would lose 21-18.
After the miss, Vanderjagt took off his helmet and threw it to the ground, also leading to a penalty.
The miss was an aberration from Vanderjagt's otherwise stellar record for accuracy during the regular season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have not been around long enough to have too many close calls, and current kicker Josh Scobee has been too good to make late-game mistakes.
With that said, his performance in the Jaguars 20-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers was underwhelming, and he had one of the worst games of his career. He missed a shocking (for him) two kicks, one of which bounced off the upright.
While the Jaguars have a lot of reshuffling to do, they should be happy to have such a reliable kicker on their side.
It's better to give than to receive on Christmas, so it's clear Kansas City Chiefs kicker Jan Stenerud was in the holiday spirit as he gave the Miami Dolphins the AFC Divisional round playoff game.
Missing two kicks and having another kick blocked, Stenerud was clearly off his game.
The Chiefs weren't able to recover from the misses, and the Dolphins would win on a 37-yard kick from Garo Yepremian (well known for a big miss of his own).
Dan Marino did everything he could to get the Miami Dolphins to win, but the team's 1994 postseason loss to the San Diego Chargers stung badly.
With the Dolphins down 22-21 with seconds remaining, kicker Pete Stoyanovich had one shot to give his team the win.
However, Stoyanovich's effort was off, for which he took the blame after the game.
Had the Dolphins won, Marino would have played the Steelers in the quarterback's home town of Pittsburgh.
With the Minnesota Vikings putting together a monumentally-successful 1998 regular season (going 15-1), they were dropped in the NFC Championship Game on a depressing missed kick from the reliable Gary Anderson.
In fact, he had not missed a kick all season until he was needed for a 38-yard field goal to secure the win.
Unfortunately, Anderson would pull the kick left, and the Falcons would drive down the field to tie the score up at 27-27. They would then proceed to escape with the 30-27 victory.
A painful memory for one of the most accurate kickers the game has ever seen.
On the tail end of an absolutely horrific year (going into the game they had lost 13 in a row), the New England Patriots found themselves with a chance to tie the game late against the playoff-bound New York Giants.
However, kicker Jason Staurovsky missed a 42-yard kick with about 90 seconds left, ensuring the Patriots a 13-10 loss.
The 14 straight losses remains a team record today.
"Oh my God! How could he do that!" said radio announcer Jim Henderson, a fitting call for one of the most depressing missed kicks in NFL history, on the tail end of the River City Relay play.
The New Orleans Saints, trailing the Jacksonville Jaguars 13-20, had one final play to tie the score. Amazingly, the Saints were able to pull it off, using a series of last second laterals and flips to give them enough room to make the 75 yard score. A completed extra point would tie the game.
That's where kicker John Carney comes in. Carney, who had made two regular field goals earlier in the day, stepping in and shanked the extra point wide right, ending the game at 20-19.
Even worse, the loss eliminated the Saints from playoff contention (although they would have been eliminated even if they had won).
Allowing one of the biggest comebacks in NFL postseason history, the New York Giants had one final opportunity to drop the San Francisco 49ers in the 2002 Wild Card round (kick comes around the 8:55 mark).
Down 38-39 with only six seconds left, they had a shot to take the win with a kick from kicker Matt Bryant. However, the snap was just off, and holder Matt Allen decided to take the play into his own hands. Chucking it down the field, a possible receiver (offensive lineman Rich Seubert) was dragged down by defender Chike Okeafor.
While many fans were calling for the pass interference (which would have added one untimed play), the referees instead flagged the Giants for ineligible receiver, which ended the game (although the news after the game that Seubert announced himself as an eligible receiver before the play raised a lot of anger among Giants' fans).
The loss capped a tremendous in-game collapse, which the Giants had led 38-14 earlier in the afternoon.
With the New York Jets on the cusp of a 2004 AFC Championship game appearance, the team was let down by some poor play by kicker Doug Brien.
Brien found himself with two opportunities to win the game, first from 47 yards out then from 43 yards away. Both were off the mark (the 47 yard attempt hit an upright).
The Steelers, with the help of their kicker Jeff Reed, would win the game 20-17.
The play was a major letdown from his play only a week earlier, which was the difference as he hit a field goal in overtime to defeat the San Diego Chargers.
The word disappointing is used somewhat sarcastically here, as it was a total pipe dream for the Oakland Raiders to try a 76-yard field goal attempt.
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski may have a heck of a boot, but to be fair, a football can only fly so far. His kick ended about 10-15 yards short of the mark.
Kicker David Akers was a model of consistency in his time with the Philadelphia Eagles, but he was a major let-down as the Eagles fell 21-16 to the Green Bay Packers in the 2010 NFC Wild Card round of the playoffs.
Akers missed two important kicks, from 41 and 34 yards, which would have let the Eagles take the win.
While the poor play in the game was frustrating for fans of the team, the game was put in perspective after it was revealed that doctors had found a cancerous cyst in Akers' daughter that same week.
Let go after the 2010 season, he's now among the top of the stat chart for kickers with the NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers.
WIth the Pittsburgh Steelers in need of a big kick against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday Night Football, they did not have luck on their side with kicker Norm Johnson.
Trailing 23-21 with time running out, the Steelers last second attempt was easily blocked after a botched snap, and was returned for a 58 yard score.
The Jaguars would win the game 30-21.
San Diego Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding developed a nasty reputation as a poor playoff performer (he held a four game streak of playoff games with missed kicks), and that reputation was cemented with his performance in the Chargers' loss in the 2009 AFC Divisional playoff game to the New York Jets.
Kaeding would miss three kicks, from 37, 57 and 40 yards, and the Chargers would be downed by a score of 17-14.
The three missed kicks would match the number of kicks he had missed all season.
After ending the 2010 season as the most accurate kicker of all time (connecting on 86.5 percent of kicks), Kaeding has been out all season after injuring his ACL.
A Joe Nedney field goal right before halftime against the Chicago Bears led to one of the longest plays in NFL history.
Taking the missed 52-yard field goal from Nedney, Bears cornerback Nathan Vasher worked the ball 108 yards to score with time expired in the half.
While the play was the longest in NFL history, it was surpassed only a year later by teammate Devin Hester, who returned a kick 109 (and some change) yards for a score.
The Niners would end up losing 17-9.
The Seattle Seahawks were primed to get a solid win in their 1999 matchup against the San Diego Chargers, but were let down in a major way by their kicker Todd Peterson.
Playing on Monday Night Football, Peterson missed three field goals, and the Seahawks went on to lose 19-16.
The St. Louis Rams were looking for a playoff win at home against the Carolina Panthers in extra time, but found their kicker Jeff Wilkins' effort fall just a little short.
Missing a 53-yard kick, the Panthers were able to take over possession, and would score only minutes later on a Steve Smith touchdown catch on the first play of the second overtime period.
It would be the first playoff loss for the Rams at its dome.
In what would be a painful loss on a national stage, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would fall on Dec. 12, 1983 to the Green Bay Packers thanks to the play of kicker Bill Capece.
Capece would struggle in the late going, missing both a 35-yard field goal along with an extra point. The Buccaneers would fall 12-9.
Then-Buccaneers head coach John McKay quipped, "Capece is kaput." The kicker did not stay on with the team past the following preseason.
The evening was also memorable for being the second to last Monday Night Football game called by the immortal Howard Cosell.
Tennessee Titans (then Houston Oilers) kicker Al Del Greco, also known as Automatic Al, had about the worst day possible as the team played the Seattle Seahawks.
Lining up what would be a game-winning kick from incredibly close range, Del Greco's kick was blocked and returned for a touchdown.
The Seahawks would win by a score of 23-17.
A tough day for a player whose career spanned 17 seasons, with several game-winning field goals completed.
Things didn't go all to well for the Washington Redskins in 2010, and this botched extra point was the perfect example of how things went completely wrong.
Looking at an opportunity to tie its game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the snap went right through the hands of holder Hunter Smith. The extra point failed, and the Redskins lost 17-16.
For his part (and lousy punting numbers), Smith was cut the following week.