The only people who could possibly be upset with Connor Barth for his 2012 season are fantasy football players, and that was due to circumstances out of the Buccaneer kicker’s control.
In the midst of another fabulous season as Tampa Bay’s three-point specialist, Barth unexpectedly got zero attempts to kick a field goal in Weeks 14 and 15 against Philadelphia and New Orleans. Since those happened to be playoff weeks in most fantasy leagues, and the matchups certainly looked good on paper, Barth’s three combined points in those two games didn’t help some fantasy owners who were counting on bigger numbers.
In a more real-life sense, those two weeks also probably cost Barth the team’s single-season scoring record, and that’s only important because such a mark would have served well to highlight what a strong campaign the fifth-year kicker turned in.
Barth’s 2011 campaign may have been the best ever by a Buccaneer kicker. He made 26 of his 28 field goals to set a team record with a success rate of 92.9%. The team’s struggling offense kept his personal point total down, but he was simply automatic when called upon. In fact, he made 13 of 14 attempts from the 40 to 49-yard range in 2011, leading the NFL in that category with a percentage of 92.9. Only Cincinnati’s Mike Nugent had more field goals made in that range, with 14, and his success rate wasn’t as good. That’s a critical range for NFL kickers – these days, one rarely sees misses from inside 40, and the 50+-yarders are still a crapshoot. A kicker distinguishes himself on those 48-yarders that give a coach confidence to call his number time and again.
Barth was 12-13 in that range in 2012, which means he’s a rather remarkable 25 of 27 in that category over the past two years. Those would be good numbers for a kicker for an entire season, from all distances.
Personally, I think I was solid,” said Barth on Monday, understating the matter, after he capped his 2012 season with a 3-3 afternoon in Atlanta. “I was 12-13 from 40-49; I’ve had two misses from 40-49 in two years, which is pretty solid. I can’t complain, but it’s not about that, it’s about the team. We’ve got to look forward to next year and work out what we didn’t do right this year.”
Barth missed five field goals in 2012. Three of them were from 54 yards out or further, and one was blocked. He was just as good this year as last year, but circumstances had his field goal percentage down a bit before the season finale. One last perfect weekend helped.
“It was good to see Connor Barth kick three more field goals to get his percentage over 85%, which is a really important number to me,” said General Manager Mark Dominik. “For field goal kickers in this league, the bar used to be 80%. It’s moved, and to get Connor back over 85% on the season [was encouraging.]”
In a season in which the Bucs’ offense set new single-season marks for yards and points gained, it stands to reason that their kicker would have a shot at breaking the individual scoring mark. It didn’t quite work out that way, however, as Barth’s 123 points stand as the fourth-best mark in team annals, after Matt Bryant’s 131-point 2008 campaign and a pair of intervening Martin Gramatica campaigns. Given that he fell just eight points shy of the mark, and that he had zero other games all year in which he scored fewer than four points, it’s pretty clear that Barth would have had that mark, too, had circumstances not worked against him in the Philly and New Orleans games.
No matter. It was another superb year for Barth, who signed a new long-term deal with the team this past offseason. As always, he shared the credit for his success with long-snapper Andrew Economos and holder Michael Koenen, and emphasized how helpful it was to have the same partners in those roles for a second consecutive year. Economos is due to become a free agent in March, but Barth hopes his crew is intact again in 2013.
“It’s been fantastic,” he said. “This is the first year I’ve ever had that rollover with the same snapper and holder. Hopefully we can be here for a long time, because I’ve got three more [years] and Mike’s got four more. Hopefully we can stay together and do some good things.”