One theory why a PAT from 33 yards may be harder to make than a field goal from 33 yards? Defenses may be rushing harder since there's little real worry about a fake.
It’s become one of the bigger scratch-your-head quandaries of the Seahawks’ season — why is Steven Hauschka his usual dependable self on field goals, but surprisingly shaky on point after touchdowns?
Hauschka was 33-37 on field goals this season, fourth-best in the NFL. And no one made more field goals from 30-39 yards in the NFL this season without a miss than Hauschka — who was 13-13 from that distance.
Hauschka, though, was just 29-35 on point after touchdowns during the regular season — a kick that for the second straight year now is essentially a 33-yard field goal after the rules were changed following the 2014 season — a conversion percentage of 82.9 that ranked 29th in the regular season.
Then Hauschka missed another in Saturday’s playoff game against Detroit, making him 31-38 on PATs for the year.
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That Hauschka was just fine on field goals seems to indicate there’s nothing necessarily inherently wrong with his health or overall kicking motion.
Another stat — touchbacks — also indicates Hauschka’s leg and strength are fine. Hauschka was eighth in the NFL in touchbacks this year with 54, while his percentage of 60.22 was 14th, despite kicking in a stadium not necessarily friendly to kicking long distances, especially late in the season.
Asked about Hauschka this week and if something is mechanically wrong, Carroll gave a vague response.
“He’s a great kicker,’’ Carroll said “Steven has proven that, he’s a great kicker. So a few misses, there’s something a little bit off, that’s all.”
Hauschka has declined of late to go into detail about specific misses, saying only that he takes responsibility and has to do better.
But in a general conversation recently about the impact of new rules changes he threw out one idea that he thinks could be impacting point after touchdown kicks — that defenses can rush much more aggressively because they don’t have to worry about fakes or going offsides.
An offense can fake it from the 15-yard line and go for two if they want, but there’s obviously no reason to when you can just line up from the three and go for it, instead.
“It’s different than a 33-yard field goal now because there is no real drawback to rushing, unlike if you came that hard on a 33-yard field goal you might get gashed for a fake,’’ Hauschka said. “But (with a PAT) there’s really no risk of that.’’ Kicks from the 33 have to be kicked a little lower than the old extra points.
It’s worth reminding Hauschka was answering a general question and made clear he wasn’t speaking about any specific Seahawks kick.
But that five of Hauschka’s seven PAT misses have been blocked might seem to give that theory some validity.
Arizona coach Bruce Arians also hinted at the rush playing a factor in when Hauschka missed PAT that could have given Seattle the lead in an eventual 34-31 Seahawks loss on Christmas Eve that Arizona.
“I just love the way we pressured the kick at the end and made him pull it,” Arians said.
Hauschka said there is “no question that if you look around the league, teams are really coming after extra points.’’
Hauschka also said that in general, he thinks the longer PAT simply adds to a kicker’s workload and increases the margin for error.
NFL kickers made 93.6 percent of PATs this season, down from the 94.2 percent of 2015, the first year with the longer PAT. Teams had made 98.1 percent or better every year from 1991 until the rules were changed following the 2014 season to create more suspense in the PAT and also compel teams to go for more two-point plays. The rule has worked to an extent — teams attempted 109 two-pointers this season compared to 59 in 2014, the last year of the old rules.
In the past, kickers such as Hauschka would have had 30-50-something PAT kicks of roughly 20 yards that were almost impossible for an NFL kicker to just miss.
“It’s probably been a bigger adjustment than I thought,’’ Hauschka said. “Or that I think most guys thought mainly because it changes the amount of field goals you have. It essentially doubles the amount of field goals you have, so instead of having 25-35 in a year now you can have 70-90 in a year.’’
Hauschka said the difference has been more mental than physical.
“It’s definitely more of a load mentally, just having to be ready all the time,’’ he said.
Hauschka has also worked with a different snapper all season after the team released veteran Clint Gresham in the off-season. First, Nolan Frese, who snapped for all 16 regular season games and then Tyler Ott, who was signed last week. Snaps have contributed to a few misses, with Carroll specifically saying a high snap impacted the timing of the miss against Arizona.
Seahawks special teams coach Brian Schneider said no one thing has led to any of the misses and noted Hauschka’s overall success this season.
“You’ve got to look at every kick differently,’’ he said. “There’s a thousand factors that go into it. He’s worked through some stuff this year and he’s really fought through a lot of hard things for himself personally and this is no different and he’ll bounce back and he’ll do great.’’