The field goal in the National Football League is a very unique part of the game. An average field goal kicker has a range of about 35 yards, meaning they are expected to make anything within that range, barring unfavorable weather conditions. Anything outside of that, and it’s more of a gamble. When field goal kickers attempt kicks from 50 yards or further, even the best ones only convert them about half the time. Here is the list of the four kickers who share the record for longest field goal ever made in the National Football League:
November 8, 1970
New Orleans Saints vs. Detroit Lions
Tom Dempsey, born with no fingers on his right hand and no toes on his right kicking foot, attempted a field goal with 2 seconds left with his team down 17-16. He had no idea what the record of the longest field goal was at the time, which was set by the Colts’ Bert Recnichnar with a 56-yarder in 1953. Dempsey stepped up and bested Recnichnar’s record by 7 yards with a monstrous 63-yard field goal. He was carried off the field as a hero. To this day, no one has broken Dempsey’s record.
October 25, 1998
Denver Broncos vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jason Elam’s record-tying kick was in less of a pressure situation than Dempsey’s. His Broncos were up 24-10 against the visiting Jaguars. His coach decided to give Elam the chance to show his field goal kicking skills after making him practice long field goals that week. The chance paid off, as Elam drilled it from 63 yards, tying the record set by Tom Dempsey 28 years before.
September 12, 2011
Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos
Sebastian Janikowski always had a reputation for long field goal kicking. In fact, Jason Elam listed Janikowski as one of the kickers he thought most likely to break his and Dempsey’s record. Janikowski converted his record-tying field goal in a similar situation as Elam, at the end of the first half giving his Raiders a 16-3 lead.
September 9, 2012
San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers
Just as Elam and Janikowski, Akers stepped up to kick his field goal at the end of the first half to give his team a bigger lead. Akers’ kick was especially memorable because it hit the crossbar and bounced over for the three points. Akers then celebrated as if he had just won the game. For a 37 year old, tying a 42 year old record probably justified his reaction.
This record is a hard one to break, and not just because of the difficulty of converting a field goal from that distance. Coaches aren’t always keen on allowing their field goal kickers to attempt such low percentage field goals. Perhaps in the next few years, the conversation about the longest field goal in NFL history will include just one name.
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