ENGLEWOOD—Once he got used to the kicker’s background that was the big body of Riley Dixon, Brandon McManus settled into a nice groove.
Perhaps, it’s time to stop taking the Denver Broncos’ placekicker for granted.
While such kickers as Steven Hauschka, Nick Folk, Chandler Catanzaro and Andrew Franks have missed short field goals that cost their teams wins, as the once impeccable Stephen Gostkowski has started to miss extra points, McManus is a perfect 16 of 16 on field goals from inside the 50.
“It’s tough to watch it,’’ McManus said. “I don’t have negative thoughts at all but my first field goal was a 28-yarder, and people keep missing from 28. It’s weird. I don’t know what’s going on. Adam Vinatieri is perfect on the season. (Justin) Tucker is having a great year per usual. There’s still a bunch of guys doing it.’’
In the Broncos’ 27-19 win against San Diego last week, McManus not only made his two field goals from 28 and 22 yards and his three extra points from 33 yards, he was pounding the ball straight down the middle of the goal posts.
Meanwhile, San Diego kicker Josh Lambo missed a 45-yard field goal and had an extra point blocked by Shaq Barrett – missed points that changed the Chargers’ strategy in the second half.
McManus was terrific in his second season with the Broncos last year, making his first 13 field goals before his first miss, then going a clutch 10 of 10 in field goals during the postseason. He started struggling some during this past training camp and preseason, though, as the Broncos exchanged punters Britton Colquitt and Dixon as his holder.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Colquitt had been the Broncos’ holder the previous six seasons. When the Broncos decided to go with the rookie Dixon, McManus was approaching the ball held by a guy who was 6-foot-4, 221-pounds.
Think about it. Just like shooting backgrounds are different in each gym, just like the batter’s eye is unique in every ballpark, the holder serves as a different kicker’s background.
“It wasn’t how Riley was holding,’’ McManus said. “To me kicking is in 1.2 seconds and just seeing a little bigger body-size holding the ball, that’s what I see more or less than where the ball is. Just kind of getting my peripherals adjusted. It was getting used to the bigger body. Riley’s done a great job so far handling everything they’ve given them.’’
McManus’ only two missed field goals this year were from 54 yards in Denver and 56 yards in San Diego. Both kicks were plenty long enough. As for his straight-down-the-middle boots in recent games, McManus said that’s vital on still days.
“If I’m able to hit straight balls I’m able to kind of play the kick the ball to my target line,’’ he said. “Especially when there’s some breezes I want to make sure I’m kicking a straight ball so I can play the ball where I need to. Which was big for me in the playoffs last year when every game was ridiculously windy. If I’m hitting the ball straight, I’m able to play it.’’