By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Despite his second long miss in as many weeks, the Patriots coaching staff is continuing to show support for kicker Nick Folk.
In the second quarter of Sunday night’s game, Folk was asked to make a 51-yard kick after a conservative Patriots series. He missed wide to the left. It was Folk’s second distance miss of the year. He also hooked a 45-yarder wide right at the end of the first half in the game against Miami.
While many on the outside seem worried about the Patriots’ kicker situation, those inside Gillette Stadium are standing by their guy.
“Nick’s our kicker,” Belichick told reporters on Monday. That’s all he had to say on the matter.
“One thing about Nick is he’s a pro. He’s been doing it a long time. Any adjustment that he may or may not need to make, he’ll make,” special teams coordinator Cam Achord added on Tuesday. “We’re confident in putting him out there, there’s no lack of that.”
Why are the Patriots coaches still confident in Folk despite his two misses? Because he’s still doing what they expect him to do.
Folk has never been known to have a massive leg, especially now at the age of 35. In choosing a guy like Folk over Justin Rohrwasser, the Patriots made it clear that they’re more concerned with accuracy than range. In that department, their decision has been a success. Folk has hit all six of his extra points, as well as a 25-yard field goal in the fourth quarter against Seattle.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to the Patriots or their fans either. Let’s take a look at Folk’s field goal numbers, broken up by range, since the extra point was moved back in 2015 (regular season):
0-19 yards: 1/1 (100 percent)
20-29 yards: 22/23 (95.7 percent)
30-39 yards: 20/22 (90.9 percent)
40-49 yards: 12/22 (54.5 percent)
50-plus yards: 6/10 (60 percent)
Extra points (33 yards): 68/72 (94.4 percent)
There’s a stark and steep drop off once Folk steps beyond 40 yards. It’s nothing new to 2020. To think the Patriots are surprised or caught off guard by his early struggles would suggest a lack of preparation on their part.
The Patriots can’t just go out and improve their kicking situation overnight. Rohrwasser would certainly give them a bigger leg, but it’s not worth much if he can’t get the ball between the uprights – especially on extra points. Kickers who can hit reliably from 40-plus yards are few and far between. They’re rarely just available, never mind once the season has started.
Realistically, the Patriots best option to counter Folk’s limited range is to be more aggressive in play calling once they reach their opponents end of the field. For a 40-yard field goal, the line of scrimmage is the 23. So from their back, to wherever they’d feel comfortable punting (about the 40 yard line), it would make sense for the Patriots to play more four-down offensive football. This approach could create more scoring opportunities, while simultaneously not sacrificing too much field position.
Although the results don’t appear to be ideal, Folk has done as much as the Patriots coaching staff realistically can ask of him through two games. He’s proving to be a reliable option for extra points and chip shots. Is it worth sacrificing that for an out-of-work kicker with a slightly stronger boot? Probably not, especially given how the offense looked on Sunday night. They should be able to give Folk plenty of chances in his comfort zone.