By: Barry Barnes, Founder
Kickers are like life preservers. Life preservers can’t run the ship, but they can save the people on the ship. Punter Johnny Hekker and kicker Greg Zuerlein, Los Angeles Rams kicking specialists and NFL Regional Combine legends, were perfect examples of the life preserver simile in Week Four.
Hekker preserved the Rams in field positioning, while Zuerlein carried them to safety for the win.
In the tight showdown against the Dallas Cowboys, which was worthy of being an instant classic, the Rams struggled early and couldn’t afford to miss out on any points in Jerry’s world.
Winning field positioning was paramount, and Hekker was aware of his importance as he booted two kicks with incredible hang times, averaging 54.2 yards per attempt.
Due to the hang time on the three-time All-Pro punter’s first punt, Cowboys rookie wide receiver Ryan Switzer misjudged the timing of the ball and muffed it, enabling Rams cornerback Troy Hill to recover the loose ball on the Cowboys’ 18-yard line with 8:40 remaining in the first half.
The turnover helped to set the Rams for their first trip to the endzone.
Before the Rams scored their first touchdown midway through the second quarter, Zuerlein nailed his first two attempts, including his longest of the contest spanning 49 yards.
While the Rams continued to struggle crossing the goal line, Zuerlein kept splitting the uprights with five more field goals, including the three in the fourth quarter to keep them ahead – for good.
“Anytime you’re making kicks it’s good, but I think, more importantly, we won the game,” Zuerlein said, according to therams.com. “That it helps us win is great, but ultimately it’s all about winning and we got that, so that’s all that matters.”
Rams quarterback Jared Goff offered great praise to his kicker.
“Greg’s absolute nails, and seven is rare and crazy,” said Goff. “To go 7-for-7 — we wouldn’t win the game without him.”
In addition, Rams safety Cody Davis continues to bring opponents to the ground as he totaled two tackles.
In Denver, Broncos kicker Brandon McManus came through for his team as well. Despite missing one field goal attempt, the RC talent from the 2013 trials and Super Bowl champion, nailed three kicks to keep the Oakland Raiders from the winning column for the second week in a row.
- Arizona Cardinals running back Elijhaa Penny had his first NFL carry against the San Francisco 49ers, which came midway through the first quarter.
- Oakland Raiders wide receiver Seth Roberts had a solid game against the Denver Broncos with four receptions for 49 yards.
- The Minnesota Vikings fell short against the Detroit Lions. Despite fumbling, which sealed the game for the Lions, Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen finished with five catches for 59 yards.
- Jacksonville Jaguars offensive standouts from the NFL Regional Combine in rookie wide receiver Keelan Cole and fullback Tommy Bohanon posted some numbers. Cole had a catch for 10 yards and Bohanon recorded two catches for 14 yards.
- On the defensive side of the ball, the Los Angeles Chargers continue their up and down path, but linebackers Jatavis Brown and rookie Nigel Harris do everything in their power to sustain a victory. Brown, the Chargers’ leading tackler, racked up five and Harris finished with three stops.
- Washington Redskins cornerback Quinton Dunbar was thrust into the lineup after Pro Bowl corner Josh Norman sustained a fractured rib against the Kansas City Chiefs. Dunbar was tried several times, but he held his own by blanketing receivers with his speed and amassed four tackles.
- New York Jets linebacker Julian Stanford hauled in two tackles for a huge win over the Jaguars.
- Cowboys defensive end Benson Mayowa recorded one tackle against the Rams.