After Saturday's 24-14 loss to the New York Jets in the opening game of the 2010 playoffs, it's a sign of relief Cincinnati Bengals kicker Shayne Graham never received the long-term deal he desired in the offseason.
Graham missed two key field goals against the Jets that could arguably had an impact on the outcome of the game. He missed a 35-yard field goal in the third quarter that turned the momentum in the favor of the Jets who marched 75 yards down the field the following drive before Thomas Jones ran the ball in from nine yards out.
With fewer than four minutes to play in the fourth quarter and the Bengals down 10, he missed another field goal from 28 yards out that would have made it a one posession game with all three time outs remaining. How can a kicker being paid $2.48 million miss two field goals from these ranges when Graham does this for a profession?
His performance against the Jets is just a small chapter in the book of frustrations felt among Cincinnati fans towards Graham this season. Earlier in the season, he missed a 37-yard field goal against the Oakland Raiders that ended up being the difference maker in the 20-17 loss (even though it's hard to blame it on him when Andre Caldwell fumbled late in the fourth quarter). At that point in the season, he had made just 12-of-17 field goals and was kicking a career-low 70.6 percent.
Coming into the 2009 season, Graham was the team's all-time leading kicker in field goal accuracy (87.5 percent). He also held five franchise records, including highest field goal percentage in a season (91.2), most points in a season (131), field goals in a season (31), most field goals in a game (seven), and consecutive field goals made (21).
In the regular season, he finished 23-of-28 and built a streak of 11-straight field goals made entering the postseason. He seemed to overcome the previous slump from earlier in the season and seemed to be a reliable kicker if necessary.
Graham's inability to make two field goals from ranges that seem to be a guarantee for most kickers in this league may mean the end for him in Cincinnati. While football is a team game, it's hard for Bengals' fans not to put most of the blame on him for failing to come through when his team needed him the most. Not to mention those extra six points could have made a difference in some of the play calling made towards the end of the game.
It's been a good seven-year run for Graham in Cincinnati and it's a shame it may have to end this way.
Saturday's loss to the Jets displayed many areas the Bengals need to improve on in the offseason to bounce back as contenders next season. After the way Graham performed against New York, maybe Cincinnati will be eyeing a kicker in the upcoming NFL Draft in a few months.
As far as Graham's future, some team will most likely end up giving him a chance by signing him in the offseason if the Bengals end up releasing him. After all, Mike Vanderjagt received a second chance with the Dallas Cowboys after his release from the Indianapolis Colts, didn't he?
Dan Parzych is the Cincinnati Bengals Examiner for Examiner.com
He is also the founder of WhoDeyBengals.com
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