It’s that time of the year when the weather changes. The cold weather is coming, the football won’t travel as far, and Eagles placekicker Jake Elliott can’t do anything other than shrug.
“It’s just part of the job," Elliott said. "After what we saw in Buffalo, it’s not going to get much worse than that.”
On Sunday, Elliott missed his first kick of the year, an extra-point attempt kicked into a crazy, windy end zone in Buffalo that was simply one of those “we’ll-see-what-we-can-do” games played in a constant, swirling wind with gusts up to 40-50 mph.
“It was definitely different on both sides of the field,” Elliott said. “The wind was left to right when we had the wind at our back, so I just aimed for the middle and hoped the wind wouldn’t blow the ball away. As it turned out, it did. You’re going to have those kinds of games.”
Hopefully, that’s the only one.
Blessed in the first seven games with great outdoor weather in three games at home and one in Green Bay, along with dome games in Atlanta, Minnesota, and Dallas, Elliott was off to a perfect start. He’s still had a brilliant first half, making all nine of his field goals and 19 of his 20 PAT kicks.
The weather could have an impact, of course, but that goes with the territory for an East Coast placekicker. Lincoln Financial Field isn’t an easy stadium to navigate with a swirling wind that comes off the water when the temperatures plunge – Sunday’s forecast is for sunshine and temps in the mid-50s – “with 11-mile-an-hour winds,” Elliott said, very aware of the entire forecast.
Elliott, though, is kicking the ball beautifully. He’s got his stroke going, and he’s making terrific contact on each kick. The operation with long snapper Rick Lovato, holder Cameron Johnston, and Elliott has been in place for two seasons. They are on point.
“It’s been great, it really has,” Elliott said. “They’re all doing a heck of a job. Everything feels smooth and comfortable. Rick is putting the ball in the right spot and getting it to Cam quickly and the holds have been perfect. We’re all really happy. We’ve worked hard at it. My mindset never changes. I just try to go out there and hit a clean ball every time. Obviously, it gets tougher this time of the year and that’s why it’s so important to hit it true every time.”
Elliott has established himself as one of the league’s very best kickers in his three seasons. He’s made 61 of 71 field goals (85.9 percent). In the postseason, Elliott has been perfect on his eight field goal attempts. Elliott has range and he’s dependable and he has nerves of steel.
“I just treat each kick as its own and try to hit it clean,” he says. “That’s my approach. I don’t think about what I’ve done in the past. It’s just that kick. If I hit it like I want, I have a chance to make the kick.”
Sunday brings a new challenge. The Bears have, in case you've noticed, had some placekicker drama the last couple of seasons. They jettisoned our old friend Cody Parkey after the double-doink miss in last season’s playoffs and now Parkey is perfect on his three field goal attempts with Tennessee. Meanwhile, the Bears missed a chance at a win on Sunday against the Chargers when placekicker Eddy Pineiro slid a 41-yard attempt wide left as time expired.
If you’re fortunate, as the Eagles largely have been since David Akers kicked his way into the franchise’s Hall of Fame, followed by Alex Henery (2011-13), Parkey (Pro Bowl season, 2014), Caleb Sturgis (2015 until an injury at the start of '17), and now Elliott, then you just keep moving forward with confidence in your placekicker. Some teams haven’t had that kind of good luck with the sport’s most volatile position.
“Consistency is the big thing in this profession,” Elliott said. “You don’t get ahead of yourself. One kick at a time. Just try to hit it as clean as you can each time and go from there.”