The last quarter of the regular season determines postseason fates of several teams. It also means Pro Bowl voting jumps into full gear, and back on the ballot once again is Brian Moorman. After representing the Bills twice this decade, his numbers appear worthy for a third in 2009.
But, if you want to ask the nine-year veteran about those numbers—don't bother.
"To be honest, I haven't concerned myself with statistics or looked at them," Moorman said. "It just comes down to going out there each week and doing what I have to do, trying to help the team win."
The Bills have struggled to get victories, but he certainly can't hide from his production this season. Through ten games, Moorman already passed his punting yardage total of last season with 2,747 yards, good for second in the AFC behind Oakland's Shane Lechler. His net average, a category that most look at to judge a punter's season, is ranked third in the conference at 40.2.
More impressive, however, is Moorman's ability to manage these totals without better results in categories such as punts inside the 20-yard line. Pinning an offense deep in their territory is a key for any punter, and Moorman has made this a trademark in seasons past. While ranking second on the Bill's all-time list, he converted a career-high 33 in his 2006 Pro Bowl campaign, but only 14 thus far.
When the special teams units didn't play to their usual standards early on, Moorman was doomed by several tough bounces. The tough breaks and missed opportunities, however, are forgotten.
"I'm not upset with it, because we haven't really had a lot of opportunities. We got some bad bounces in the beginning of the year, and it was rolling into the end zone instead of out of bounds," Moorman said. "So, you just keep doing what you're doing and hope the bounces go your way. I'm pretty pleased with where I'm at. Obviously you would like some kicks back, but you just have to let them go and move on to the next week."
Bobby April labeled Moorman as "a great tribute to the organization," because of his commitment to strengthening his play and limiting field position.
"Everything we try to do is to improve, and he definitely has improved," April said. "Just looking at the numbers, with his distance and hang time ratio, I think he's having his best season. It kind of shows in his net, and he's really helped our coverage get down field because of his hang. For a guy who's kicked as much as he has, he's still continually improving."
In the game against Jacksonville last week, Moorman recorded a 46.6 average, and limited returners to three carries and 15 yards.
Another figure coaches and players consider is touchbacks. Moorman has seven, two below his career-high, and admitted to wanting that total decreased. He believes the issue is insignificant provided he has high net average results.
"You look at most of my touchbacks, and most of them are from field punts. Whether they are 50-plus yard punts from the field where they roll into the end zone from a long punt, I can't hate that," Moorman said. "If you hit a 60-yard punt, that's a 40-yard net—that's not a bad thing. Obviously I would like to have less touchbacks, and that means they stay out of the end zone and I'll have a higher net punt. I'm not disappointed with the way things have gone so far."
April doesn't get involved with the technical aspects of punting, mostly because Moorman is a diligent worker alone. He knows what to correct and translates his improvements on the field. A kicker needs the right conditioning, and April said he knows how to save energy.
"The only thing I say he's done better job with is not over kick. He's always done a tremendous job of working out, replenishing his leg after a workout. This year I think he's realized that he needs a spry leg on Sunday. His hard work can deplete his energy, and you can run into that to some extent. Through his maturity, he knows the fine line between not doing too much and replenishing."
Moorman agreed, saying the best kicks come from not overusing the muscle and stretching. The only extensive kicking is done Wednesdays, followed by two light workout days and a short warm-up before the game.
"There's a difference being completely warmed up and ready for a kick, than kicking too much. You have to keep an eye on that and not overdo it."
Some of his current numbers are ahead of his Pro Bowl years in 2006 and 2007, but he needs to outpoll one of the league's best in Lechler. The four-time Pro Bowl selection is strong across the board, but Moorman might get pull courtesy of Buffalo's wintry climates and sneaky athletic skills.
For the second consecutive season, Moorman completed a touchdown pass off a fake field goal attempt. The 25-yard hookup to Ryan Denney was the only points scored versus New Orleans Sept. 27.
"I hope so," said April of Moorman's Pro Bowl chances. "He's deserves it, and the other thing is he's a tremendous threat running the fake. We didn't use it this year, but having that threat helps our football team and ultimately our defense. If they're in a non-return mode because of him, that helps our coverage. A lot of what he's done in the past has helped us now."