You know you trust your kicker when you purposely position him for a 47-yard field goal with the game on the line.
The Buccaneers did that on Sunday against the Redskins. Sure, they would have liked to see a third-and-nine pass to Tiquan Underwood go for double figures, thus extending the drive and either killing more of the clock or leading to a touchdown. But it was a high-percentage play that, at the least, was likely to get four or five yards before Barth took the field.
Barth, of course, made the 47-yarder with ease, putting the Bucs up 22-21 with less than two minutes to play against the Redskins. It was actually the shortest of his three field goals on the day, as he had previously hit from 50 and 57 yards in the first half. As it turned out, the Redskins would use the remaining time to rally for their own game-winning kick, but there is no doubt that Barth once again came through for the Buccaneers.
“It’s nice to have coach’s confidence like that. Put [me] out there, 57 yards – I mean, it was a windy day – that’s awesome. But it’s not about me, it’s about the team. We just have to keep working and put this one behind us and enjoy this bye week, get away from football a little bit, relax, and them come back and ready to go.”
Has any coaching staff in franchise history ever had reason to have as much confidence in its kicker as the current Bucs do in Barth? Doubtful, even in the respective heydays of Martin Gramatica or Michael Husted or Matt Bryant. It’s been almost a calendar year since Barth missed…and that was last October 16 when all he did was hit four of five tries in a huge win over New Orleans and come up just short on a 55-yarder. He has now made 25 in a row, and while that’s not yet within shouting range of the NFL record (42 by Mike Vanderjagt from 2002-04), it is the longest active streak among all NFL kickers. It’s light years beyond the former Buc record, which was 16, shared by Gramatica and Husted. And it hasn’t come easy.
Head Coach Greg Schiano surely was unconcerned with (but emboldened by) Barth’s streak when he sent him out for two 50+-yarders on Sunday. During his streak, Barth has made five attempts from 50 yards or longer, and another five from 45 or more. The average length of his 25 boots during the streak is, incredibly 41 yards. In contrast, Washington’s Billy Cundiff missed from 31, 45 and 57 yards on Sunday alone, with his final game-winner of 42 yards just sneaking inside the upright.
Barth and Gramatica are still the only two kickers in Buccaneers history to make two field goals of 50 or more yards in the same guy. Gramatica did it four times; Barth has now done it twice, and he very nearly has two games with three such shots. Against Miami on Nov. 15, 2009, he hit from 50, 51 and 54 yards, the only Buc kicker ever to pull of that kind of trifecta. His 47-yarder on Sunday would have easily made it from 50, had he been called on to make that shot.