Despite misses, Falcons kicker Bryant ‘good as I ever was’

Roddy White spots a reporter questioning kicker Matt Bryant in the Falcons’ locker room and wants to know the subject. Told it’s Bryant’s three missed field-goal attempts in the past three games, White is (playfully) incredulous.

“Who cares?” White said. “You’ve been automatic around here.”

White is right: Bryant has been a very reliable kicker for the Falcons since they signed him during the 2009 season. He’s been particularly good on long field goals, and his makes under pressure include the memorable 49-yarder to send the Falcons past the Seahawks to the 2012 NFC Championship game.

But that’s also the point of the questions: Bryant has been so good for so long that it’s been surprising to see him miss what are routine kicks for him in relatively low-stake situations.

“I missed them where, normally in the past, I haven’t missed them, so it seems like there’s big issues, I guess,” Bryant said. “But there’s not. I just got out there and do my thing.”

Bryant missed two field-goal attempts in Week 5 against Washington and one during Sunday’s 10-7 victory at the Titans. There was no common thread between the misses in regards to distance, location, conditions or game situation.

With the Falcons trailing Washington 7-3 just before halftime, Bryant missed a 38-yard attempt from the right hash mark that hit the right upright.

“Just a bad kick,” Bryant said.

The Falcons were still down 7-3 when Bryant missed a 48-yard attempt, this time hitting the left upright while kicking from the the left hash mark.

“I hit it really well,” Bryant said. “When it left my foot I thought there was no doubt. I was more surprised to see that when hit the upright.”

It was only the second time Bryant had missed two field-goal attempts in a game for the Falcons (he was 4-for-6 against the Cowboys in 2012). But Bryant made a 28-yard field goal later in the third quarter against Washington, and the Falcons went on to win 25-19 in overtime.

That made Bryant’s rare two-miss game a footnote, and he didn’t attempt a field goal during the Falcons’ defeat at the Saints in Week 6. But then Bryant had what could have been a critical miss against the Titans.

The Falcons led 10-7 with less than three minutes left when his 47-yard attempt from the left hash mark sailed wide right.

“I rushed myself in the kick, meaning the process itself was rushed,” Bryant said.

Bryant is talking about the entire sequence of the field-goal attempt: the snap by Josh Harris, the hold by Matt Bosher and his kick. There didn’t appear to be any obvious problems with the snap or hold on the miss, but Bryant apparently didn’t have a good rhythm.

Falcons special-teams coach Keith Armstrong said precise synchronization is especially important for Bryant.

“It’s part of his feel because he truly is a feel kicker,” Armstrong said. “We had to get his timing squared away. We had a good week (of practice) this week.”

Bryant’s age is in the background of his recent misses. He turned 40 years old in May, and though kickers age more gracefully than other positions, their declines tend to be sudden.

But Bryant had a strong season at 39 and said nothing has changed in a year.

“If I miss one, or I miss three, it’s not because I’ve turned 40,” he said.

In fact, Bryant said his charts of misses and makes during training camp and practices this year have been as good or better than in the past. Also, he said that declining distance would be the first sign of decline for a kicker and he still can make field goals from 60 yards.

“My few kicks this year so far haven’t worked out as I’m accustomed to in in the past,” Bryant said. “But I’m still as good as I ever was.”