A spate of blown field goals in the first five weeks of the season has focused attention on the kicking game. SI asked the most accurate kicker in NFL history, the Ravens' Matt Stover (141-171, .810), his holder, punter Greg Montgomery, and his snapper, tight end Brian Kinchen, to describe the technical side of their jobs.
Stover: "It starts with me measuring exactly 7� yards from the spot of the ball. That's where I want it."
Kinchen: "I know I've got to get the ball back to Greg on a target the size of a basketball. I've got it spinning just right so when it gets to him he can catch it with the laces up—that way, when he places it down they'll be facing forward. You want the laces forward because that sets the ball up better to kick."
Montgomery: "We know if Brian has been beaten up during the game, he night not be giving me a perfect snap. So we practice bad snaps during the week."
Stover: "Today was junk day in practice. Our special teams coach, Scott O'Brien, snapped to me, and I'm saying, 'Give me awful snaps. I want to kick bad balls.' I never anticipate a perfect snap. When I'm set to kick, I call that the peak. Everything's happening, the adrenaline's pumping. The ball's snapped, and I'm saying to myself, Slow, slow. If you go too fast, you're going to miss. Greg puts the ball down on the spot so well. Punters are often holders because they've got such good hand-eye coordination."
Montgomery: "This [right after the snap] is when a lot of things get screwed up, and I think it's because of the free-agency changes. Look at the last-minute mistake that cost the Eagles their [Sept. 15] game against Dallas. [Kicker Chris] Boniol's new. [Holder Tom] Hutton probably hasn't held for him enough to make the bad holds go smoothly. So Boniol's on top of him so fast, Hutton figures he's not going to get the ball down right, and he takes off. Those guys probably didn't practice gearing down: Instead of taking your regular speed to the ball, the kicker sees a mistake, and he slows down."
SI: "Do you notice a different feeling in your gut when you're lining up for a field goal in the last seconds?"
Kinchen: "Without question. You're not human if you don't. You've just got to make everything routine."
Montgomery: "I tell myself, It's just another kick. Scott [O'Brien] is great at simulating pressure. He'll say: 'Third and six! Sixteen seconds left! Here's the pass, Testaverde to Green! He's down! Toro, Toro!' That means we have no timeouts left, and the offense has to sprint off the field while we sprint on. I wave a towel as the signal for that."
Stover: "Everything is faster, faster. The adrenaline is pumping. Every week on ESPN, you see two game-winners. You have to think, That's going to be us."