Falcons’ Koo says Chiefs’ turf a factor on missed kick

Credit: AJC

Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo discusses the loss to the Chiefs.

Younghoe Koo trotted onto the Arrowhead Stadium field having made 27 consecutive field goals. A little over a week ago he found out he was named to his first Pro Bowl. His journey has been well-documented, having gone from undrafted free agent to cut from two professional teams to being among the most reliable place-kickers throughout the NFL’s 2020 season.

But with a chance to tie the Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs and send it to overtime, his 39-yard field goal attempt went wide to the right. The miss allowed the Chiefs to take a knee with 9 seconds to go and escape with a 17-14 victory over the Falcons.

Just like that, Koo’s streak of 27 made field goals ended, with the Falcons losing their fourth consecutive game by five points or less.

“I just pushed it,” Koo said. “I know I have to come through when my name is called at that time. I just didn’t come through. But I’ll learn from it and move on.”

Koo admitted that he never felt comfortable with the playing surface at Arrowhead Stadium, which uses a Latitude 36 Bermuda grass. The only other teams on the Falcons’ schedule that have a natural or hybrid grass surface are the Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Falcons have yet to play at the Buccaneers’ Raymond James Stadium. The rest of the Falcons’ 2020 opponents play on an artificial field.

Atlanta Falcons place kicker Younghoe Koo (7) is consoled by teammate Isaiah Oliver after missing a game-tying 39-yard field goal in the closing seconds, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo. The Chiefs won 17-14. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

Koo was unable to compete against the Packers due to injury. Although he made four field goals against the Panthers, he missed an extra point on the grass field at Bank of America Stadium.

Against the Chiefs, Koo only attempted his missed field goal and two extra points. His second point-after attempt was hit low and appeared to be deflected, although the ball still got through the uprights. Koo said nerves never entered the equation, even with the field goal try coming so late in the game.

“It was a different surface that I played on (Sunday) and I had a hard time figuring it out,” Koo said. “Different surface or not I have to make that kick.”

Koo’s miss marked the latest unforeseen way for the Falcons to lose a game this season. This trend started in the second week of the season when the Falcons were unable to recover a spinning onside kick against the Dallas Cowboys. Leading by nine points late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were able to win 40-39 with a touchdown, onside kick recovery and field goal.

A week later, the Falcons led the Chicago Bears 26-10 in the fourth quarter but managed to collapse late and lose 30-26.

Looking to run the clock down and kick a game-winning field goal against the Detroit Lions in Week 7, running back Todd Gurley accidentally rushed into the end zone for a touchdown. This gave the Lions 1:04 to score a touchdown, which they did to capture a 23-22 win.

Against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 14, the Falcons held a 17-10 lead but were unable to score in the second half, which contributed to a 20-17 loss. And last week, the Falcons held a 17-0 halftime lead over the Buccaneers at home before losing 31-27.

This time, however, it was the most reliable player throughout the season missing the late field goal try late in a loss. Koo has only missed two field goal attempts this year, having made 35 of 37.

“We’re just that close, whether it’s a play or two,” Koo said. “We’re right there every time. I think we just have to learn to finish and get better from that.”

After the miss, Koo’s facial expression showed just how stunned he was. And Koo wasn’t the only one shocked as his teammates have come to expect him to make just about every kick he attempts.

Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris said he approached Koo shortly after the game ended and offered a few words of encouragement after what could have been a discouraging moment for the young specialist.

“You go hug him and tell him you love him,” Morris said. “That’s exactly what I did. I told him his day will come and it will come shortly.”

Said quarterback Matt Ryan: “I told him afterward that the next time he’s in that situation he’s going to nail it, to not doubt that for a second. He’s had a great year for us. He’s been extremely consistent. His confidence should continue to be at an all-time high. It’s part of the game and you’ve got to move forward.”

Koo will have one more game this season, which will come on the Buccaneers’ Tifway 419 Bermuda grass next week. Disappointed in not being able to make this attempt to give his team a chance at a win in overtime, Koo vowed that history will not repeat itself the next time he’s in a similar situation

“Next time, I’ll make it,” he said.

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