The life of a placekicker in the NFL is filled with ups and downs. One week, you’re the fan favorite for booting a game-winning field goal, the next you’re job is on the line after missing a big kick or shanking an extra point.
Dan Carpenter knew that feeling all too well during his rocky four years with the Buffalo Bills. Carpenter, Buffalo’s sixth-leading all-time scorer with 464 points, enjoyed immense success initially with the Bills, but his erratic kicking style — Carpenter missed 10 field goals and 11 extra-points in his final two seasons with the Bills — cost him his job this offseason.
As soon as free agency began, the Bills front office reached out to nine-year veteran Stephen Hauschka, who excelled as a placekicker for the Seattle Seahawks.
“Buffalo called the very first day of free agency and made a strong offer and we couldn’t really let it go,” Hauschka told Kimberley A. Martin of The Buffalo News.
Hauschka admits he never contemplated taking his immense kicking talents to Orchard Park, so he flew back to Seattle prepared to consider the Bills’ offer while seeing where he fit into the Seahawks’ plans for 2017.
Turns out, the Seahawks felt they could replace Hauschka, the franchise’s second-leading scorer all-time (759 points in nine seasons). Seattle’s loss has most definitely been Buffalo’s gain through the early portion of the season.
“They (the Seahawks) didn’t want to match it or anything like that, so we ended up here,” said Hauschka, who was a part of the Seahawks’ Super Bowl XLVIII championship team, making all five extra points while kicking a pair of field goals during the 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos. “It happened really quickly. It really wasn’t a hard decision for us at all.”
In the high-stakes recruiting process known as NFL free agency, Buffalo’s willingness to commit to Hauschka, to show him how much they sought his services, clearly made all the difference in his choosing Buffalo over other suitors.
“When a team really wants you, they’ll make things happen,” said Hauschka, who played two seasons for the Baltimore Ravens, one year with the Broncos, and was on the Atlanta Falcons roster for one year before signing with Seattle in 2011. “And usually where you’re wanted the most is probably the best place for you too.”
Through the first five games of the 2017 season, Hauschka, or as he was known in Seattle, “Hausch Money,” is proving to be one of the best off-season signings by the Bills.
Hauschka, 32, was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week in consecutive weeks (Weeks 3 and 4), becoming the first special teams standout to earn Player of the Week honors in consecutive weeks for Buffalo. He was also the first member of the Bills to earn consecutive Player of the Week honors (offensive, defensive, or special teams) since the legendary Hall of Famer Bruce Smith accomplished the feat during the 1990 season.
After signing a three-year deal with $8.85 million to come to Buffalo, Hauschka has gone 11-for-12 on field goals and converted all eight of his extra point attempts.
In Week 3, Hauschka made four field goals, including a pair from 53 yards or longer, recording 14 points to lift the Bills to a 26-16 win over the Denver Broncos. He became the first kicker in franchise history to boot two field goals of 53 yards or longer in the same game in the win over Denver, then posted an 11-point outing in a 23-17 win over the reigning NFC champion Atlanta Falcons. Hauschka converted on kicks of 55- and 56-yards among his three fourth-quarter field goals, extending his run of made field goals from 50 yards and beyond to 11, one away from the NFL record.
With four made field goals from outside of 50 yards in five games, Hauschka sits two shy of Carpenter’s team record of six 50-plus yard field goals, set during the 2014 season.
“Kicking’s about rhythm,” said the 10-year veteran, who is the fourth-most accurate kicker in NFL history (with an 87.3 career completion percentage on field goal attempts), behind only the Cowboys’ Dan Bailey (89.4), the Ravens’ Justin Tucker (89.1) and Stephen Gostkowski (87.5) of the Patriots. "Every part of your life has to be in line to play well. To have balance in your life and to be able to be comfortable where you are and have a good relationship with all of your teammates and have a good culture, all of that goes hand and hand.”