On Sunday afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs were able to put away the Cleveland Browns in the Divisional Round of the NFL postseason despite a number of hurdles. Not only were they missing several players coming into the game, but they also lost others during the contest—including starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes. It also didn’t help that kicker Harrison Butker missed an extra point and a short field goal in what ended up a close game.
The Chiefs won by five points—a final score of 22-17—in the end, but Butker’s misses on Sunday totaled four points. Those missed attempts allowed the Browns to maintain hope that a score on a late possession could shift the lead and put the Chiefs on the ropes. Instead of enjoying the comfort of a two-possession lead down the stretch, the game became known for some late offensive heroics from Chad Henne in order to clinch the victory.
On Thursday, Butker spoke to the media and explained his process for each kick—and why some things didn’t work out as hoped on Sunday.
"“Every kicker is different. For me, I’m looking at the ground, the spot, basically, of where the holder’s gonna put the ball. Then once the ball’s down, my eyes normally raise up and look at the sweet spot of the ball. In a perfect world, that ball is still and I can just hone in on the sweet spot and swing away.“If the laces are a little bit off, then the ball’s going to be moving. But I’ve been very fortunate to have such a great operation the past couple months, the past couple weeks, so that in the game when the ball was moving, I just didn’t handle it well.”"
When Butker stresses that he didn’t “handle it well,” he’s referring to the fact that the job is ultimately on his shoulders—whether the ball moves or not.
"“That’s on me because I do practice that during the week. Since our operation is so good, I do practice just seeing bad laces, seeing the ball moving. At the end of the day, as the kicker, if the ball is on the ground, it’s your job to make the kick. So when that ball is moving or perfectly still, you gotta make the kick.”"
Butker has been about as automatic as an NFL kicker can be for his entire career so far, and even some frustrating misses in 2020 shouldn’t overshadow that fact. For his part, he’s trusting the process and just trying to get better as he goes along. The entire organization is stable, so it’s not surprising to see that Butker isn’t overly concerned. He’s still one of the game’s best kickers.
"“We’re not gonna try to reinvent the wheel. I think there are minor adjustments we can all make, and we’re focused in for this next AFC Championship game. The biggest thing is just learning from past mistakes and correcting it and getting better and moving on.”"
Moving on means hosting the Buffalo Bills for the AFC Championship on Sunday, January 24 for a chance to go to a second consecutive Super Bowl.