And although Zauner has found that some kickers naturally have a tougher makeup than others, he believes that performing in the clutch is a learned trait, not one that’s innate. When Zauner would interview kickers coming out of college, one of the first questions he would ask was how many game winners they had tried in their life. The more, the better.
“I don’t think it’s as much toughness as being cool, calm and collected,” Zauner said. “Some of the best doctors don’t have the best bedside manner. But they’re not emotional either, so when something happens in the operating room, they don’t go, ‘Oh my god.’ ”
Zauner looks for tendencies in kickers, and said many have their attempts drift to the left on longer distances. That was the case with Carpenter on both of his misses Sunday. But instead of massaging their psyche with a Tony Robbins-style pep talk, Zauner would offer an easy fix: Simply aim a little more to the right.
It’s similar to golf
In that respect, clutch kicking is a lot like golf. And like golf, shanks can spring up with even the best.
Reveiz was out of football for a year after missing 4 of12 attempts for the Dolphins in 1988. He got a fresh start in San Diego, but the pressure to succeed nearly broke him. Reveiz made just 2 of 7 attempts for the Chargers, and was gone after four games.
Given a last chance with the Vikings, Reveiz snapped out of it, connecting on 133 of his final 171 attempts. That includes a game-winning, 36-yarder in Pittsburgh 20 years ago.
“It was so loud, I couldn’t even hear my holder’s instructions,” Reveiz said. “I remember hitting the ball, and it going down the middle. It went from absolutely bedlam to absolute silence in an instant.”
For Carpenter, there would be no sweeter sound Sunday.