The four weeks leading up to Sunday's game against Pittsburgh had not been the best stretch for Rian Lindell. At no point in his career with the Bills had he missed three consecutive field goal attempts, which took place over the course of the last four games (no attempts vs. Chicago). What did happen Sunday, however was something that has become commonplace in the kicker's Buffalo career.
Just like any other kicker in the NFL, Lindell can fall victim to a poorly hit ball or poor conditions where his typical cold-blooded accuracy is compromised and leads to a missed attempt here or there. What history has shown is that Buffalo's kicker pulls himself out of those dips in success in resounding fashion, and that was the case against Pittsburgh.
Lindell hit a pair of short field goals on consecutive drives early in the fourth quarter to wipe out a six-point deficit and tie the game with 11 minutes left in regulation.
The most encouraging part of Lindell's bounce back performance Sunday was his final attempt. With seven seconds left in the regulation and Buffalo down by three, he lined up for a 49-yard kick. After the snap Lindell's attempt was true, but the officials ruled that Pittsburgh had called timeout prior to the snap.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin employed the en vogue icing the kicker move on potential game-tying or game-winning field goal attempts.
Lindell would have to make a second attempt, but Buffalo's kicker was unaffected by the timeout as he bombed a second 49-yard attempt through the uprights with two seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.
"That was strong," said head coach Chan Gailey. "To me that was huge not only for us, but him. He kicked off pretty well all day I thought. It was good for him to get back and make one like that. That's going to be big for us in the future."
For Lindell, the icing the kicker ploy has never been an issue for him.
"I guess I look at it a little like golf if you got to re-tee it after the first shot," said Lindell. "I would think the second shot would probably be better. You get to see how the ball travels if the wind is blowing and if it's carrying well. And there's enough time there to go to the sideline and then come back on.
"I think fans believe that we're obsessing over the kick through the whole timeout, but really I've been thinking about that kick since the offense got the ball. It's not just all of a sudden I'm spending extra time thinking about it. So an extra 30 seconds is not a big deal."
In all fairness to Lindell the first of three misses in the string leading up to last Sunday's game was the 53-yarder he had to attempt a second time when Chiefs head coach Todd Haley tried to ice him in overtime. Lindell got a foot full of dirt on his second attempt in that game and the ball hit the upright.
Gailey even said after the game that it's almost not fair to put your kicker in that situation from that distance in overtime.
Lindell did say however, that his miss from 33 yards in Cincinnati was "awful."
Despite the recent misses, prior to hitting three straight against Pittsburgh, Lindell has felt his technique and power on the whole this season have been sound.
"Overall I think it's gone fairly well even through that bad stretch there," he said. "So I knew it was just a matter of time. I felt good all day Sunday, pre-game, halftime and on the field obviously. It was certainly nice to get some attempts and hit them well, especially when it really counted."
Only one other time in Lindell's Bills career has he had misses in three straight games, and those were not consecutive. It was during his first season with Buffalo in 2003 when a torn labrum in his shoulder compromised the consistency of his approach, and had an effect on his power when it came to long distance attempts. Not that Lindell was using it as an excuse.
"Back then I wasn't as good a kicker," he said. "Just overall I wasn't the same kicker. The last couple of weeks have been pretty frustrating because overall I was kicking the ball fairly well. Obviously not perfectly and then I just couldn't find it in the game. I hit that one against Detroit pretty well and I looked up and thought, 'You're kidding me.' It just didn't go down my line. And it got all the more frustrating in Cincinnati and embarrassing and all the things that come along with misses."
Lindell has shown time and again that his battles with accuracy are short-lived as he quickly rights himself and often puts together a streak of consecutive makes.
In 2003, he pulled himself out of the aforementioned three-game stretch with at least one miss by hitting his next four in a row. In 2005 when he had a pair of games with missed attempts, he went on to hit the next four straight on a streak in which he made 12 of 14.
Two seasons ago when he hit the left upright twice from makeable distance in a single game he connected on his next six attempts over the following three games.
"Well that's good," said Lindell upon hearing of his bounce back nature. "I really feel like I've been kicking well so I plan on continuing that trend. It's news to me. Fortunately I haven't ever had that big of a spiral.
"Everybody is going to miss a field goal or a free throw. Whatever sport you're talking about, whatever position, that's part of being a human," he said. "You're going to mess up. The trick is not to let that spiral into too much.
"It's really disappointing to have consecutive misses. That's why I try harder than anything not to have those. But with the way I've been kicking in practice and warm-ups all season I knew it was just a matter of time as far as hitting a good ball again."
The most accurate kicker in team history (82.38%), Lindell is now just four points away from 800 in his Bills career, trailing only all-time leading scorer Steve Christie (1,011).