Kicker Dan Carpenter, during his five seasons with the Dolphins, slowly grew from guarded, one-sentence replies to the media to letting his quiet confidence and dry humor show.
But Carpenter’s no old-school Hurricane-style trash-talker nor is he one to deal in heavy emotion.
So after booting three field goals, including the 31-yard game-winner with 36 seconds left, for Buffalo against the Dolphins team that cut him in August, Carpenter eschewed the verbal slam dunk. He didn’t point out he went 3 for 3 in the 23-21 Dolphins loss while his Dolphins successor, Caleb Sturgis, missed his only attempt, a 51-yarder.
Dressed in slacks and shirt at his career first interview podium, Carpenter looked like what he was — a businessman after a good day at work.
“It’s got extra meaning since it’s a division game,” Carpenter said. “There was nothing special about it, and I have no hard feelings about what happened with the Dolphins. I’m glad to be in Buffalo right now and doing anything I can to help this team win.”
Asked to describe the winning kick, Carpenter seemed to have trouble because the kick was so mundane: “I just wanted to make sure everything timing-wise was consistent on what we’ve always done. We’re pretty quick in Buffalo. There really wasn’t much thought process. Just kick it through those yellow things out there.”
Carpenter had an easier time talking about what happened immediately after the field goal. Dolphins kickoff returner Marcus Thigpen took the ball at the Dolphins 2-yard-line, broke around the right side of the coverage and appeared on his way to a stunning game-winning touchdown. Carpenter stood as the last checkpoint.
As Thigpen tried to dart around Carpenter, the kicker lunged for the legs. He got enough to take Thigpen out of gear briefly. By the time he got back up to speed, Buffalo’s coverage pushed Thigpen out of bounds at the Dolphins’ 46. Four Dolphins incompletions later, the clock ran out.
“I put our team in a really tough spot. Obviously, the ball was flying really well that way all day. I didn’t hit [the kickoff] very well,” Carpenter said.
He said he was thinking, “Get him on the ground. Get him on the ground any way you can. When you’re the last line of defense, that’s your thought process. I was not happy with myself on the kickoff so I just wanted to make sure — I didn’t want the game to end that way. I wanted to do anything I could to get him down. It wasn’t enough, but I guess it was enough to slow him down [for] the rest of the pursuit to come get him.”
Bills coach Doug Marrone, who called the kickoff Carpenter’s only bad kick of the day, said, “I lost a couple of years off my life on that play.”
Although Carpenter evinced few emotions about returning to his only previous NFL home field, the Sun Life Stadium crowd demonstrated a strange enmity toward an inoffensive personality who is the franchise’s all-time leader in field-goal percentage, extra-point percentage and field-goal length (the only 60-yarder in Dolphins history).
Carpenter drew lusty boos on each attempt.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Carpenter said. “On the first field goal, I got my answer.”