The 2009 season has been one of inconsistency for the Bills in several areas, and its led to a record that will again see Buffalo on the outside of the playoff picture. But if there is one measure of consistency this year it can be found in the right leg of Rian Lindell.
The most accurate kicker in franchise history, Lindell is putting together another solid season. Entering this weekend's action the veteran kicker is 20-23 on field goal attempts this season (87%). With four games left to play Lindell is within striking distance of his single-season career high in field goal percentage set back in 2006 when he went 23-25 for a 92 percent success rate.
"I think overall I've hit the ball pretty well," Lindell told Buffalobills.com. "I just do what I can with the chances I get. I was thinking this the other day that there's still a quarter of the year left. So there could still be 10 more attempts and I've got to make good on all of those, or however many more I get. Four games are a lot when you only play 16."
With percentages like that one would think Lindell would merit some serious Pro Bowl consideration, but his kick percentage is good for just fifth best in the AFC. However, only New York's Jay Feely (24 att.) and San Diego's Nate Kaeding (28 att.) are the only kickers in the AFC with more attempts and a higher percentage than Lindell.
That's why Bills punter and holder Brian Moorman believes Lindell has a legitimate shot to be named to his first career Pro Bowl.
"The good thing about this year is yes there are other guys with more attempts, but not many more," said Moorman. "It's not like guys have 30 attempts. Everybody is right in that mix."
Moorman is hoping that Lindell gets some serious consideration to represent the AFC knowing the few kickers ahead of him in the conference with a better kicking percentage by and large play in far more welcoming conditions.
"He doesn't get the respect for some reason and I don't know why," said Moorman. "He's kicking in one o the most difficult places to kick in the league. He's not inside. He's not in a warm climate. Why he hasn't gotten consideration in the past I don't know. Hopefully guys in the league will view that as something to consider. Obviously we've still got more games to play, but he's had a heck of a year."
In addition Lindell has a career long 56-yarder that was perhaps one of the most critical kicks this season. It broke a 14-14 tie with Miami in the fourth quarter and proved to be the game-winning points in what wound up being a 31-14 victory for Buffalo.
Lindell also had the game-winning kick in overtime against the Jets in Week 6 to complete a late comeback effort and it was no chip shot at 47 yards. When players and coaches vote for the Pro Bowl those are the kinds of kicks that get kickers recognition.
"I think so," said Lindell. "Those bigger kicks always help out. I think the coaches and players also understand the difference between a kick when you're winning by 30 and a kick to put your team up by 10 to put a game away, or a big kick to bring your team within seven with three minutes left. Those are almost as big as game winners."
There's a common belief that a team's success largely influences which players go to the Pro Bowl, and that is largely the case for offensive and defensive players. For specialists however, it's not always determined by who plays on the most successful team.
"We weren't hugely successful when I went," said Moorman. "The thing about kickers and punters is there's some gray area, but it's pretty cut and dry. It is numbers based, whereas at some other positions it's harder to gauge exactly why someone should be voted on. It's pretty clear at his position."
Lindell has never taken issue with kickers that have gone to the Pro Bowl to represent the AFC instead of him in recent years when he appeared to have the necessary numbers to get the nod.
"I've never seen any kicker go to the Pro Bowl where I've said, 'Why in the world is that guy going?' There are so many guys you can make a case for," Lindell said. "You look at Jay Feely, I think he's 21-24 and Dan Carpenter has a high percentage."
And a high number of attempts along with percentage and good long distance success are what Lindell believes should be the primary considerations when weighing a kicker's resume for the Pro Bowl. Unfortunately that's not always how kickers are evaluated.
"I think a lot of it is points based which I think might not be the best way to judge it," said Lindell. "If you're on a team that scores a lot of touchdowns and you're kicking PATs all the time that could hurt you. Every time you see a listing of kickers and how they're ranked it's always based on points."
Lindell currently ranks 8th in the AFC in points due mainly to a lack of attempts and the offense's overall lack of scoring as Buffalo ranks 27th in points per game.
Nevertheless Lindell's holder believes Buffalo's kicker is Pro Bowl worthy.
"It's not like he doesn't deserve it," said Moorman. "He does. I'll be frustrated if he doesn't get the consideration he deserves. I'm hoping we're able to put enough votes together to get him down there."
It's been a successful career for Lindell and he seems pretty pleased with his overall game this season, but he doesn't deny being named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 10-year career would be special.
"That would be a fun phone call to make back home," he said.