It was just 55 yards. That’s it. Just 165 ft. With the temperature hovering in the upper 30s and winds swirling, the damp air could only hold the ball that’s oblong and would need to be belted by Dolphin’s kicker Andrew Franks. The ball had to be kicked low. The trajectory and quick calculation for the engineering graduate had to be done quickly and decisively. Wind speed. Pressure in the football. Height. Force. Mass. Acceleration. Franks knew what we didn’t.
That’s all that stood from the Dolphins driving to to tie the game and it into overtime.
Critical kicks at critical times and the pressure was never more suffocating for the kicker who had just missed a 46 yarder to give the Dolphins a 10 point lead heading into the 4th quarter.
Tick, tick, tick. The clock reaching 15 and Darren Rizzi’s kicking unit burst onto the field like clockwork, like they had done it before. Just like practice.
Franks had never hit a 55 yarder in his two seasons the NFL. His season long this year was a 41- yard field goal and in 2015 he hit a 53 yarder.
Franks who has had a less than mediocre performance as a clutch kicker has had two wins this season one coming in the monsoon in Miami versus the Cardinals and none was more important than today.
Meanwhile, coach Rex Ryan of the Bills positioned himself near a sideline ref to call timeout, except he was too late. Late by the snap of the ball that was driving through the fury of winds and caught a jet stream as the ball crossed over to the right and over the cross bar. One could make an argument that #30 of the Bills signaled timeout, but can players on the field call a timeout during a field goal?
These are the same cross bars that growing up, watching the Bills knock around the Dolphins in the 1990s, Bills fans would fall off of in joyous celebration after clinching the AFC East.
Kicking. It’s so fundamental that fans and pundits like to write it off or pretend that it’s easy. Ask the Bills fans about Scott Norwood and his Super Bowl kick.
Not so today, both teams needed their kicking game at times. Whether it was Carpenter going 1 of 3 or Franks making 2 of 3, none was bigger than the kick heard around the world.
It came down to overtime and as the Dolphins rode Jay Ajayi and his train to his last stop, he had one more big run left, a 57 yard scamper that took the Dolphins from their own 18 to the Bills 28. One run. One impact run that Ajayi can clip together on a highlight reel come contract time in a few years.
Ajayi finished with 206 yards on 32 carries sending his season total to 1,213 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns.
After two first downs, it was time for Franks to march onto the field and make one more kick.
The Bills head coach Rex Ryan could only watch. Watch in wonderment of what could’ve been had his timeout been granted.
One more kick, with snap down, laces out, and the swift foot of Andrew Franks sending the ball into the Buffalo crowd and still floating like this team on cloud 9 after win number 10 and a chance…a chance at being playoff bound.
With this win, the Dolphins are one step closer to the playoffs.
Next week: the Patriots.
Photo credit: AP photo