For a while now, Kansas City Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub has been maintaining that his placekicker Harrison Butker is capable of hitting a field goal from 65 yards — which, until Sunday, would have been a new NFL record.
But thanks to Baltimore Ravens placekicker Justin Tucker, the bar has now been raised. With just three seconds remaining during Sunday's game against the Detriot Lions, Tucker hit a 66-yard attempt to give Baltimore a 19-17 victory.
Tucker's kick was two yards longer than the previous NFL record of 64 yards — set by the Denver Broncos' Matt Prater in 2013 — and three yards longer than the record that had been established 43 years before: the 63-yarder that Tom Dempsey kicked for the New Orleans Saints in November of 1970.
Ironically, Dempsey's kick also defeated the Lions 19-17.
Taking his weekly turn with reporters on Thursday, Toub said he wasn't surprised by the new record.
"It's not surprising that Tucker got the record," he said. "He is a great kicker. He's got a great mindset; his leg is so strong."
But although it will take two more yards to set another record, Toub still thinks Butker can do it.
"If there's a guy that can break the record, it's Harrison," insisted Toub. "Even [Baltimore special teams coach Chris Horton] told me that. I congratulated the coach — and he told me that very thing: that your guy can break it. In the right situation, I believe he can."
Toub has previously explained that because of the risks inherent in a long field-goal attempt, we shouldn't expect to see Butker try for a record unless the situation is right — that if the attempt misses, the other team won't get the ball in a favorable field position with time on the clock. That means it would almost certainly have to be at the end of the first half — or as in the case of Tucker's field goal on Sunday — the end of a game.
As Toub noted, the Week 3 games provided another example of what can go wrong with a long field goal attempt. With two seconds remaining in the first half, Prater — now kicking for the Arizona Cardinals — attempted a 68-yard field goal. But Jaguars cornerback Jamal Agnew caught and returned the ball 109 yards for a touchdown.
"Obviously, you're going to put a returner back there," observed Toub, "because you're returning against a bunch of offensive linemen that aren't great cover guys.
"So they did it — and that's the risk you take when you're kicking a long field goal. You have to teach your guys how to cover, how to fan the field — [to] not get all bunched up. I'm not saying that's what happened to Arizona — but there's always that chance that the big play can happen against you."
Toub acknowledged that both of Sunday's long attempts happened under ideal conditions for a placekicker: inside a domed stadium. But he said that sometimes, the weather could turn in a kicker's favor.
"If you're outside and you've got the wind at your back [for] a long field goal before the half, you try," explained Toub. "[At the end of a] game, you've got to do what you've got to do, there."
"So if you've got the wind right, Butker can do it."