Zane Gonzalez crunch-time missed kicks a trend for Arizona Cardinals

Nov 29, 2020, 4:22 PM | Updated: Nov 30, 2020, 7:34 am
Arizona Cardinals place kicker Zane Gonzalez (5) reacts with teammates after missing a field goal a...

Arizona Cardinals place kicker Zane Gonzalez (5) reacts with teammates after missing a field goal attempt near the end of the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Having gone 2-3 over their last five games, the Arizona Cardinals can thank luck for wins at all.

They happened by way of a Hail Murray against Buffalo and an overtime field goal by kicker Zane Gonzalez against Seattle. The make against the Seahawks made up for a prior miss that would have won it earlier in the extra period. Yet the timing of the misses has been troubling.

Gonzalez has missed three crucial kicks in the final two minutes of regulation or overtime over the last five games. The latest on Sunday led to a 20-17 loss against the New England Patriots.

His 45-yard attempt with 1:47 left at Gillette Stadium went wide right, and the Patriots drove 33 yards the other way — 15 came by way of a penalty on Cardinals rookie Isaiah Simmons — to win it at the buzzer on the leg of Nick Folk.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury strayed from announcing ultimate confidence in his kicker moving forward.

“I’ll have to get to Coach (Jeff) Rodgers and kind of talk through what he saw on that and what Zane felt,” Kingsbury said of his special teams coordinator and kicker. “Like I said, he’s kicked well for us majority of the time. We just got to find a way to get that done, and there were a ton of plays in that game that could’ve made up for that.”

Still, it’s a trend.

Gonzalez is now 8-for-12 on kicks from 40-49 yards this year. He’s perfect on six field goals inside 40 yards and 2-for-3 on attempts 50 yards or longer.

Three misses have been huge, though.

On Nov. 8 against the Miami Dolphins, a wobbly 49-yarder with 1:58 left in the game fell well short of the goal posts. Miami had a 34-31 lead and wound out the clock after the botched kick to win.

A game before that, Gonzalez missed a 41-yarder that would have won the Seattle game in overtime. Gonzalez did, however, make a 44-yard attempt to send the game into overtime with triple-zeros on the clock and following the miss came back with a 48-yarder that gave Arizona a 37-34 win with 15 seconds left in overtime.

“He’s been good a lot of the time,” Kingsbury said. “Obviously, there’s a couple of kicks we’d like to have back but think he’s kicked the ball well for us over the last two seasons. We got to be able to come up with that. We’ll just keep working.”

If the Cardinals open up the kicking job, practice squad kicker Mike Nugent, a 15-year NFL veteran, could be on deck. Otherwise, a search and the sluggish coronavirus-protective protocols would need to take place to bring in anyone new.

And obviously, the Cardinals have more than a kicking problem.

They lost to the Patriots after outgaining them 298-179, winning the turnover battle 2-1 and pressuring New England quarterback Cam Newton to finish with one of this worst statistical games of his decade-long career.

“I’m sure it’s very mental,” quarterback Kyler Murray said when asked if he needed to say anything to Gonzalez after the game. “I have never been a kicker, I can’t speak on it, I don’t know. But no, I’m not down — I don’t go and bash him or anything like that. I know how tough it is. He made every other kick and it just didn’t happen to go his way. I think we had a lot of other opportunities to make that game easier on ourselves and we didn’t.”

Still, three crunch-time misses in five games has all eyes on Gonzalez, whose seat grows hotter.

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