A few lessons we learned about the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 9.
In Week 9, we saw the return of the nail-biter, as the Kansas City Chiefs fend off a feisty Carolina Panthers team en route to a 33-31 victory.
The Panthers almost mounted a comeback in the waning seconds of the game, as Joey Slye missed the potential game-winning field goal as time expired. As the Chiefs head into their bye at a near-perfect 8-1 record, let’s take a look at some of the lessons learned from this week’s tight victory.
Butker’s struggles are real
Harrison Butker has been outstanding for the Chiefs, but he’s struggled with extra points this season. In Week 9, this struggle continued. Butker missed an extra point, and now sits at 27/33 on extra points for the season, which is just under 82 percent. For reference, this is 31st in the NFL. It’s been a confusing problem, especially considering the fact that Butker has been solid on his field goals
I think it’s fair to wonder if Butker is struggling with something like the “yips”. The yips are a common sports term that describe a sudden slump that athletes can fall into, without any tangible explanation (i.e, Butker being injured, or bad snapping). While these are possible explanations, I haven’t seen any indication that they are occuring. Rather, I think it makes more sense to explain Butker’s struggle as a mental lapse than most athletes fall into at some point, be it at the amateur or professional level.
I’m mostly relying on my experience as a tennis player and coach for this analysis. I spent a fair bit of time learning from coaches who specialized in the mental aspects and I focus on mental training for the players I coach.
Sports, especially at elite competitive levels, require synergy between the athlete’s physical and mental faculties. Like any machine, there are times when that circuitry gets disrupted, and once the athlete becomes aware that they are struggling in a specific domain, it gets harder and harder for them to overcome that particular issue, since they are highly conscious and apprehensive of the task. The frustrating part is these ruts are nearly inevitable. Kicking is especially mentally demanding. You could argue that kickers are more exposed than QBs. Yes, holding and snapping mistakes occur, but more often than not, blame for a miss falls squarely on the kicker’s shoulders.
The good news is that these ruts are typically temporary. More likely than not, Butker is going to correct this issue quickly. You’ll often hear stories of an athlete after, perhaps, missing a free throw, staying up all night practicing. This repetition is so important because it gets the athlete back into a groove, or flow, where they can start executing the task without the over-thinking. I wouldn’t be shocked if Butker took the bye week to get back into his flow.
So, while frustrating, I have faith that Butker’s struggles will resolve. Perhaps the bye week will give him a chance to get back into his flow. Butker’s commitment to his craft is undeniable, so I expect he’ll reflect on the issue and take the necessary steps towards getting back in his groove.