Wilkins aims for an NFL record
By Jim Thomas and Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
In a season in which Jeff Wilkins has missed more field goals than at any time over the past decade, he is on the doorstep of one of the NFL's most impressive kicking records.
With two extra points Sunday against Arizona, Wilkins will break the NFL's all-time record for consecutive extra points made. Playing a position that demands consistency, Wilkins will, in a sense, become the most consistent kicker in league history — at least in terms of extra points.
Wilkins has made 370 consecutive extra points. One must go back to the Rams' 1998 season finale in San Francisco for his last miss. Following a 25-yard touchdown pass from Steve Bono to Amp Lee early in the fourth quarter of that contest, Wilkins' extra point missed wide left.
He made his first extra point in the 1999 season opener — and hasn't missed since.
"This extra point thing is pretty incredible," coach Scott Linehan said. "Kickers tend to not get the recognition that you get from some of these other (positions). But it's pretty significant. ... He's such a solid individual. You know he has all the ability in the world. It reminds you of what a great career the guy's had."
Superstitious to a fault, Wilkins said he would not answer questions about "streaks" when approached by a reporter Thursday.
Because he has missed eight of 30 field goal attempts in 2007, the most for him in any season since 1999 — when he went 20 for 28 — Wilkins regards this season as a disappointment.
"I think every year, as you start getting up in the years, you question how long it's going to hold up for you," Wilkins, 35, said. "So yeah, there will definitely be some questions. But hopefully, I'll have that figured out by training camp."
Once the dust settles on this season, he'll think about what went wrong on those missed field goals and search for answers.
"You've got to make some adjustments and figure it out," he said. "I'm sure I'll change up a few things, talk to a few people who have been in the position (where) they've played a long time."
Wilkins may be reluctant to talk about his streak, but he has a lot of people rooting for him, including the current record-holder, Jason Elam.
"I know Jeff fairly well," Elam said in a recent phone interview. "He's been not just a good kicker; he's been a great kicker for a long time. I've admired what he's been able to do. He's a complete kicker. He's a great kickoff guy. Accurate guy. Long-distance."
Still kicking for Denver this season at age 41, Elam made 371 consecutive extra points for the Broncos from 1993 to 2002. The streak ended in the snow in a 2002 game against Indianapolis, when Elam sent an extra point attempt off the left upright.
"That's a lot of extra points," Elam said. "If you think about it, there's a lot that can go wrong, so it's not just a tribute to the kicker. You've got the whole teamwork issue going on there. The snapper, the holder and all the guys up front.
"If you get over 200, that's a pretty good thing. I would've never guessed that I'd have been able to put together something like that."
Elam, and now Wilkins, have almost doubled 200 in a row.
"Along the way, you're going to have some weird things happen," Elam said. "You know, you might have a ball tipped, and it might still go through. Or you might not get the ideal hold. Or you just might mi**** one. There's going to be some times along the way that things just aren't ideal. So it is quite something that Jeff's still going with it.
"When he gets the record, tell him I said congratulations. I think a lot of him, and I'll be happy for him when he gets there."
The 1998 miss is the only errant extra point for Wilkins in 11 seasons with the Rams. His only other misses in 497 career extra point attempts came in 1995 when he missed twice for San Francisco.
Elam said he went through six or seven long snappers, and three or four holders, over the course of his record streak. Wilkins has had the same long snapper, Chris Massey, since 2002. And the same holder, Dane Looker, since 2003. (Looker was replaced for three games earlier this season by punter Donnie Jones, when Looker was sidelined with a severe thigh injury.)
"For nothing to go wrong, that's pretty impressive," Looker said. "I know we've had one missed snap here, but Jeff never put his foot on it, so it didn't count against the streak."
The errant snap took place last season against Chicago. Looker said he and Massey will take pride in the record, once Wilkins makes his next two extra points.
"Three hundred seventy-one in a row — 372 to break the record — I think would be incredible," Looker said. "We've got to make sure we get that done. There's been a lot of great kickers along the way. Obviously, even the best of them miss an extra point here or there. So we'll take great pride in it."
Re: Wilkins aims for an NFL record
Gosh, I hope the offense gets into the endzone at least twice on Sunday.