The 10 Longest Field Goals in NFL History
Few positions in sports face more pressure and consequence than an NFL kicker.
Kickers have one task and either do it or don't. The kicker who does often goes unnoticed unless it falls under a game-deciding situation. He gets thanked for a moment, and everyone returns to looking at the gaudy stats by quarterbacks and premium positions. Or he doesn't and happens to play one of the more replaceable positions in sports.
He's not a punter, but on the positional hierarchy list, the two aren't far apart.
Few situations, though, can match that of a historic kick. They're few and far between and can happen at random, with distance the great definer of the feat. Granted, more of these over the years have occurred in Denver thanks to the thinner air at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, but it's still impressive.
These kicks seem to coalesce into a perfect moment of importance and distance, the situation calling for an act of desperation flirting with the record books. It's not a steadfast rule applying to every kick that follows, but it does manage to span generations.
Here are the 10 longest field goals in NFL history—for now.
What's possible? If you ask Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, just about anything. He said the following in 2016, per Good Morning Football: "If the situation is prime, then maybe 84.5 yards."
You heard that right: Tucker said he'd be willing to attempt a kick in the NFL from 84.5 yards!
Below are some far-out kicks that didn't occur in NFL regular-season games. It's also hard to tell how "official" these kicks are, hence the Urban Legends slide.
Nick Rose, Texas Longhorns: 80 yards
Brandon McManus, Denver Broncos: 73 yards
Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens: 69 yards
Dirk Borgognone, Reno High School: 68 yards
10. Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis Rams: 61 Yards (2015)
It's only right that a guy nicknamed "Greg the Leg" and "Legatron" kicked himself into the top 10 of a list chronicling the longest field goals of all time.
Expectations to do just this chased the Missouri Western product and 2012 sixth-round pick right into the NFL, where as a rookie he casually joined the 60-yard club and hit on 7-of-13 attempts from 50 or more yards away.
It wasn't until his fourth season, though, that Zuerlein broke into the top 10. He was the outright MVP for his then-St. Louis Rams on that November day in 2015 when he hit four of his five attempts, including one from 61 yards away in an eventual 21-18 overtime loss.
The performance was one of the best games of Zuerlein's career, which not only catapulted him into the top 10 in this area but also gave him one of his three conversions on nine tries from more than 50 yards out in 2015.
9. Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens: 61 Yards (2013)
Unlike the above, some kicker-heavy games produce history and a win.
Justin Tucker proved this back in 2013 with a 61-yard boot against the Detroit Lions—a kick with 43 seconds left to help his Baltimore Ravens win the game, 18-16.
He scored all 18 points, by the way, and didn't lack for confidence with the game on the line and staring down a historic distance.
"What can you say about Justin Tucker?" Ravens coach John Harbaugh asked, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). "When we got the ball there, I think at the 45-yard line, I said, 'Hey, are we kicking this?' ... He said, 'I got it.'"
It's no exaggeration to say Tucker has one of the strongest legs in league history. He hit more than half of his attempts from 50-plus yards out over the first five years of his career and hit a kick from 75 yards away outside of a live-game setting.
8. Jay Feely, Arizona Cardinals: 61 Yards (2012)
While Tucker was a rookie yet to hit the 60-yard mark in 2012, Jay Feely was playing in his 12th season on his fifth team and giving fans one of the most memorable kicking performances of all time.
For good and bad reasons.
The good? Feely nailed a kick from 61 yards away on that October afternoon with the roof at University of Phoenix Stadium closed, helping the Arizona Cardinals tie the encounter with the Buffalo Bills at 16 apiece with 1:09 left in regulation.
Here's where the other shoe drops: Feely missed a game-winning attempt from 38 yards out later in the fourth quarter, and the Cardinals went on to lose in overtime.
Granted, a defender ever-so-slightly got a hand on the kick at the line of scrimmage upon takeoff, but so goes the life of a kicker. Feely's 3-of-4 day isn't only remembered for the the franchise record but also the miss from a shorter distance.
7. Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders: 61 Yards (2009)
Kickers don't often force their way into household-name status, yet it's a classification Sebastian Janikowski earned over the years with ease.
This tends to happen when even a kicker has an illustrious career spanning nearly two decades. Heck, it's what happens when a team selects said kicker in the first round of a draft.
Indeed, Janikowski joined the Oakland Raiders via the No. 17 pick back in 2000. His early resume didn't hint at leg power sure to enter the record books; not after a 2-of-6 mark from 50-plus after his first two seasons.
Years later, though, Janikowski took the field two days after Christmas and nailed all three of his attempts in a forgettable 23-9 loss to the Cleveland Browns. One of those conversions came from 61 yards away.
The incredible outdoor kick was just a hint of what Janikowski would do over the second half of his career.
6. Matt Bryant, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 62 Yards (2006)
Matt Bryant also familiarized himself with most NFL fans thanks to a long career steered by a powerful, efficient leg.
Unlike Janikowski, Bryant only needed five seasons to announce he was one of the NFL's big-game kickers. After entering the league in 2002 with the New York Giants, he wound up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by 2006—his fourth team.
The fourth team was the charm in 2006 when the Baylor product walked onto the field at Raymond James Stadium in October with the game on the line. He easily slammed through a 62-yard attempt to give the Buccaneers a 23-21 escape of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Bryant wouldn't go for 60-plus again over the next decade of his career, but he hit the top 10 of this particular record in NFL history long before most, and his name isn't anywhere close from being pushed out.
5. David Akers, San Francisco 49ers: 63 Yards (2012)
Funnily enough, Bryant's opponent in that 2006 record-setting affair as regulation expired would go on to pass him in the record books six years later.
David Akers was on the wrong side of history then when his Eagles went down, but he went on to secure a semblance of revenge as a member of the San Francisco 49ers in 2012, converting a 63-yard attempt.
Akers' attempt was, in a word, wild. Lambeau Field isn't the easiest kicking environment, but the 49ers trotted out the veteran for a "why not?" attempt at the end of the first half. The left-footed attempt bounced off the crossbar and went through.
The 16-year-veteran, who hung up the cleats in 2013, understood at the time the rarity of the kick.
"When you hit the goal post at any part it usually makes that horrific noise and then it usually bounces back," Akers said, according to ESPN.com. "This time it got there. It was a sweet bounce. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime type of a deal."
To top it all off, it was one of three makes on as many tries in the win against the Green Bay Packers and helped keep Akers' career mark from 50-plus above an impressive 50 percent.
4. Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders: 63 Yards (2011)
As hinted, Janikowski was far from done with the record books.
Two years after his 61-yard conversion, Janikowski bested himself by punching through a 63-yard attempt, making him the first kicker since 1998 to register a kick from the then-historic distance.
The record still counts if it went down during an ugly scene, too. Janikowski hit the try in the second quarter of an ugly affair with five seconds left before halftime. Prior to the history-making kick, the game had been a snoozefest of an AFC West tilt between the Raiders and Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. It featured 16 combined penalties and a 16-3 Oakland lead before halftime.
Still, an impressive feat, though maybe not so in the mind of the man himself.
"To be honest, I didn't hit it that good. It barely got over the bar," Janikowski said, according to Cindy Boren of the Washington Post.
To be fair, a legend like Janikowski doesn't make a list like this twice and tie an NFL record fans hadn't seen in more than a decade without being something of a perfectionist.
3. Jason Elam, Denver Broncos: 63 Yards (1998)
Jason Elam of the Denver Broncos sat on the 63-yard mark for more than a decade before Janikowski came for it.
Back in 1998, the idea of a kicker booting one from 60 yards out seemed almost silly considering it hadn't been done since 1991 and only twice stretching back to 1980.
Alas, Elam—a third-round pick by the Broncos in 1993—lined up against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the end of October '98 and crushed a 63-yard attempt before halftime, giving his side a 27-10 advantage in an eventual 37-24 win.
The soccer-style kicker knew what was at stake as soon as the ball left his foot.
"I am as happy as I can be," Elam, according to CBSNews.com. "I knew before the snap that the kick would tie the record, and I made sure to mark it right with my spot. Tom Rouen had a great hold, and I got a good swing. I knew it was pretty close, and I was trying to help it along. As I was running down the field, I lost it for a second in the lights. I almost beat it down there."
Elam's sprint into the history books has only seen three men tie the mark and a lone kicker surpass it since.
2. Tom Dempsey, New Orleans Saints: 63 Yards (1970)
Legend Tom Dempsey, of course, did 63 well before anyone else in a retelling available at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The scene was innocent enough. The 1-5-1 New Orleans Saints were down 17-16 against the Detroit Lions with the ball late. Dempsey's coaching staff could choose to throw the ball up and pray or put the team's fate on Dempsey's foot.
Keep in mind this was 1970—the longest field goal in league history at the time belonged to Bert Rechichar of the then-Baltimore Colts at a whopping 56 yards.
The coaching staff trusted Dempsey, though, and he delivered on a shot unlike anything the league had seen before.
"Like a loud...kind of like a cannon going off, kind of like a loud gunshot," holder Joe Scarpati told Chuck Culpepper of Sports on Earth. "Like a little, solid thud, pretty significant. He really hit the ball solidly."
Dempsey—born with no toes on his right foot and with just one finger on his right hand—hit the before-its-time kick down late with the game on the line outside in a venue not benefiting from the thin air of Denver.
It might not top the distance list anymore, but Dempsey's kick remains one of the greatest plays in league history.
1. Matt Prater, Denver Broncos: 64 Yards (2013)
Matt Prater is the latest to make history with his leg, though unlike recent milestones such as Akers' kick, he shot himself right up to the top of the list.
Prater's kick isn't nearly as dramatic as others on the list, though in that same vein it manages to go underrated at the same time.
Indeed, Prater lined up in the cold December air at Sports Authority Field at Mile High near the end of the first half and drilled a 64-yard attempt. Teammates mobbed him, yet they were still down going into the locker room.
History, though, says the kick provided the spark the Broncos needed to pull away and win 51-28.
"Such an awesome moment; I'm glad it came in a win," Prater said, according to ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold. "It was crazy; it was awesome because almost the whole team rushed the field after that kick. It definitely was a momentum swing."
Quietly, Prater seemed like a candidate to shatter the record well before he did. Over his first decade in the NFL, he missed fewer than 10 50-plus attempts. His long for most seasons floated in the 56-and-above range.
As such, Prater rightfully sits on the throne he claimed, awaiting the next challenger produced by a game continuing to get bigger, stronger and faster.