More than 60,000 spectators packed the Orange Bowl on a late October afternoon nearly three decades ago, but Fuad Reveiz suddenly stood all alone.
The Dolphins and the Buccaneers were tied at 38, and all that stood between the home team and revelry was Reveiz, a rookie, doing his job.
Make the 43-yard kick, and he’s the hero. If not… .
“It’s not a fun thing at all,” Reveiz said of the pressure that comes with end-of-game kicks.
Today, private coaches make a healthy living helping pros manage clutch situations. But Don Strock, Reveiz’s holder, had a simpler, saltier message on that long-ago afternoon.
“Kick the [bleeping] ball and let’s get out of here,” Strock said.
Reveiz did as he was told. The football soared through the uprights.
Fast-forward 27 years, and Dan Carpenter has Reveiz’s old job. Last Sunday, he faced a near-identical situation. Carpenter had no doubt he would be just as dependable.
But he was wrong. Carpenter pulled two late attempts to the left.
You can come up with a list of reasons why the Dolphins lost to the Jets in overtime last week. But in the emotional moments that followed, Carpenter could think of only one: He failed where he was certain he would succeed.
“I like when we have a chance to win the game and I’m out there,” Carpenter said days later. “I’m thinking it’s sewn up. That’s how I went into it this last game. That’s how I’m going to go into it from here on out.”
Carpenter’s next chance could come as soon as Sunday, when his Dolphins (1-2) face the surprising Arizona Cardinals (3-0) in a game Miami linebacker Karlos Dansby has dubbed a “must-win.”
Should it again come down to a Carpenter kick, the fifth-year pro will have his team’s full confidence, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said this week.
He deserves it. Carpenter’s 48-yard miss in overtime Sunday was just his second in eight career “clutch” situations, according to Stats Inc. Carpenter’s success rate is just off the league-wide average of 77 percent.
A kick is considered clutch if it’s attempted in the last five minutes or in overtime, and if either the score is tied or the kicker’s team trails by three points or fewer.
Adam Vinatieri might end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday for his Super Bowl-winning exploits, but not even he is infallible. Vinatieri has missed 8 of 41 such kicks in his career.
“You are going to be nervous, no question,” said Michael Husted, a former NFL kicker who now works as a private coach. “The key is to admit and accept that nervousness so that you can get back to focusing on your technique and making the kick.
“If you try to hold it down, it will eventually find its way up.”
During his 9-year career, Husted managed his emotions superbly, making 12 of 15 clutch kicks in the final minute of games.
Still, he’s quick to rattle off his failures — they came from 47, 51 and 53 yards, he said. Those misses taught him more than the makes, he said.
Gary Zauner spent 13 years as an NFL special-teams coordinator, and coached Reveiz in Minnesota. Like Husted, Zauner now earns a living as a private instructor.