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The Price of Special Teams Security

Can Patrick Murray make every kick he needs to make?

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

It is fourth and 19 yards to go on the Carolina Panthers' 36 yard line side of the field.  This is the first drive of the third quarter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is also the most time consuming and most plays of one drive of the whole game so far to where the Bucs are behind in score: Panthers 10, Bucs 0. All of the previous drives were moot, short, or both.

Tampa Bay Drives, 1st half































The second half drive so far had 11 plays for 44 yards and consumed about 6:20 time of possession.  From the 36 yard line, the field goal attempt should be around a 53 to 54 yard field goal.  At this junction, the Buccaneers offense could use the points to not only cut into the lead, but also give hope that they can score.  Let us see this Patrick Murray kid give the Bucs a boost in the scoring department.

Patrick Murray is the new place kicker for the Bay. He displaced former place kicker Connor Barth for numerous of reasons. In college, Murray kicked, handled kickoffs, and was responsible for punting duties. Murray made a few 50- yard field goals in college as well. A big factor for Murray winning the place kicking job is that his average salary will be $465,000 for two years. Connor Barth's average salary for the next two years was $3.3 million.

During pre-season, Barth had made two field goals of lengths 44 yards and 45 yards. Murray had made field goals of 27 yards and 35 yards. Patrick must have kicked his socks off in practice to have replaced Connor because two seasons ago Connor had made kicks in games of 52 yards, 55 yards, and 57 yards. That 57 yard field goal was made at Raymond James Stadium against the Washington Redskins. This Murray kid must really be good for the organization to have him supplant Barth.

Back to the game, it is fourth-and-19 yards with the ball at the Panthers' 36 yard line.  In my head I can hear Eminem's song ‘Lose Yourself' to see what young Mr. Murray can do, " Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it or let it slip?"

Next thing you see is punter Michael Koenen come onto the field. The field attempt would have been a 53-yard field goal. Head coach Lovie Smith elected to punt.

This is a field position game and the score is only 10 - 0. The only problem with that thought was the context of the Bucs' offense was abysmal in the first half. On this drive, it stalled which resulted in a punt. The implications are the following: Lovie does not trust Murray to make a 53-yard field goals and Lovie does not trust his defense to hold back the Carolina offense if Murray fails to make the field goal.

The Bucs go on to lose the game 20 - 14.  Carolina's defense forced a third turnover when the score was 17 - 14 late into the fourth quarter, sealing the win, but still tacked on three more points to push the total to 20 points. Even though the offense could not run block nor could the defense tackle or pass defense effectively, I did not think the kicking game would be affected.

A notch in the loss column is simply one loss. One game doth not make a season. And yet I feel irked knowing that our place kicker is weaker than the one we let go to save $3 million dollars. Could the game have changed if Barth had made that 54 yard field goal to make the score 10 - 3? Could the momentum have charged the team into playing better? I have no idea.

It may be too early to tell if losing Barth was or was not worth it.  Right now, it seems as though it is not because not much was brought up with the Bucs punting on the Panthers' 36 yard line. I guess it is just me who is concerned with the lack of fire power upon the kicking game.


After I wrote this article, a day later I stumbled upon an article written by Pewter Report stating that Murray's range is 55 yards plus. It does pose the question why did Lovie not want to attempt the field goal? Is he not confident in our defense if Murray could not make that kick? Or is this situation one of those things that Lovie would have changed.