- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Denver Broncos reporter
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There was a point earlier this season when Denver Broncos head coach John Fox was asked what attributes he wanted in a kicker.
"I want a guy who makes kicks," Fox said. "That's the biggest attribute."
Since the Broncos signed Connor Barth on Nov. 25, Barth has been the guy making kicks. And on the doorstep of whatever becomes of their playoff run, the Broncos hope Barth will keep being the guy who makes the kicks.
"I couldn't do it without the offense and defense playing their butts off during the games," Barth said. "The last thing you want to do is miss a kick after they've marched down the field, so I'm just trying to do my job and take it one kick at a time. It's all worked out so far."
After the Broncos had elected to release Matt Prater following his four-game suspension to open the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy, they initially had hoped Brandon McManus would be the answer. But McManus missed four kicks in the Broncos' first 10 games and the Broncos, looking at a fairly shallow pool of available kickers, worked out Barth and Jay Feely, choosing to sign Barth the same day.
Since Barth is 15-of-16 on field-goal attempts, his only miss a 49-yard attempt in the Broncos' loss in Cincinnati. Barth tied a franchise record with five field goals in his first game with the team -- Nov. 30 in Kansas City -- and then tied the record again two games later with five field goals in the Broncos' win in San Diego.
He's done so well he was named the AFC's Special Teams Player of the Month in December. Not bad for a guy who six weeks ago was just hoping for another NFL chance. With the Broncos going through their postseason bye this week, Barth was asked what he would be doing right now if the Broncos hadn't called.
"It'd be paddle-boarding, hanging out on the beach or down in Tampa in my house," Barth said. "I'm a big water guy so I'd be out being active, just staying in shape. I didn't know when the call would come, and it's kind of a blessing. It was kind of funny. I talked to my parents and my agent. I was like, 'I had this inclination I would get picked up by a playoff team' and that whole thing, because I've never had a chance to experience any of that in my career. So it's just happening and I'm pretty excited the Broncos called and it's been a complete 180, just seeing the difference in the organizations and how it's run and just playing for a winning team. It's pretty cool."
Barth had missed the 2013 season after he suffered a torn right Achilles tendon in an offseason charity basketball game. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers released him this past summer as the preseason drew to a close. Barth had a workout with the Detroit Lions, but was just trying to stay in shape, saying he often would just kick "at poles somewhere if I couldn't get where there were uprights."
During the workout the Broncos wanted to see what kind of range Barth had coming off the missed season in 2013. He has made a 50-yarder against the Buffalo Bills to go with 49-yarders against the Chargers and in the regular-season finale against the Oakland Raiders.
At home games Barth has consistently made attempts from 55 and 56 yards in warmups.
The Broncos certainly hope Barth, who has never kicked in a postseason game, maintains his groove into January and, they hope, February. The Broncos will open the playoffs Jan. 11, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals or Indianapolis Colts.
If the Steelers win Saturday because they are the AFC's No. 3 seed, they would come to Denver for the divisional round game.
"You've just got to treat it like it's just another kick," Barth said. "That is why you have practice every day. You go out there and hit those kicks. I've hit those kicks hundreds of times, so you've just got to go out there and trust in your ability. It's all about positive thinking and just knowing that before you go out there you're going to put it through, and hopefully 90 percent of the time you will. Like I said, you just can't overthink it. That is the last thing you want to do. Just go out there and treat it like it's a regular-season game. Just go out there and do your job and hopefully it works out."
For a kicker who thought he'd be "hanging out on the beach" at this time instead of playing in the playoffs, Connor Barth is pretty happy right now.