Chad Ryland had a chance to give the New England Patriots some new life in their Week 12 matchup against the New York Giants. With a chance to send the game to overtime in the final seconds of regulation, however, the rookie kicker pushed a 35-yard field goal attempt wide to the left.
The inaccurate kick sealed the Patriots’ 10-7 loss, dropping them to 2-9 on the year. After the contest, Ryland took responsibility for the shank, claiming that he simply “missed the kick.”
It was not the first time the youngster was off the mark this season. Ryland entered the game having missed five of his 17 field goal tries this season, including one from the same distance the previous game against the Indianapolis Colts — another close, low-scoring affair where points were at a premium.
For Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, those misses naturally are an issue. He wasted little time saying as much on Monday morning.
“Chad is a very talented player,” Belichick said during his weekly appearance on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show, “but this is two weeks in a row that we basically missed extra points. It’s not good enough.”
The Patriots added Ryland in the fourth round of this year’s draft, effectively bringing him aboard to replace long-time kicker Nick Folk.
The move to insert a young option and eventually part ways with Folk — he was traded to the Tennessee Titans ahead of roster cutdowns — made sense given the incumbent’s age, inability to perform kickoffs, and seemingly declining leg strength. However, it has come with some growing pains.
For Belichick, the goal is to eliminate those and make Ryland and the entire kicking operation — which also includes another rookie, punter/holder Bryce Baringer — build some positive habits.
“With everybody, I think you identify what the issue was and work to correct that in practice and make sure that becomes a consistent good habit and not a consistent bad habit, so it repeats again,” Belichick said during a media conference call on Monday. “You try to make those fundamentals, especially at that position, consistently good so that they’re good and they’re right every time. That’s what we’ll do there.”
Belichick went on to explain how the variables in the kicking game are different from other positions on the roster.
“The operation’s pretty defined,” he said. “It’s not like playing a regular position where there are a lot of different things that can happen. It’s pretty defined, but the operation between the snapper, the holder and the kicker, you’re working on that consistency all the time. And, the conditions — whether it’s wind, temperature, field position, hash mark, all those things — you try to get 100 percent consistent on every kick. That’s what we’ll do, keep working on that.”
And even though Belichick did not rule out adding another kicker to the equation, it seems likely that the team stays committed to Ryland. Of course, the young kicker has to prove the team that he is deserving of that trust.
Getting back on track and making those must-have kicks would go a long way toward that.