No one is perfect, but Sebastian Janikowski, AKA “Automatic SeaBass,” has been as sure a thing for the Raiders as the sun rising in the east.
But with the place-kicker’s alarming accuracy issues this season, is the sun starting to set on Janikowski as Oakland’s most dependable weapon?
Janikowski, the Raiders’ first-round draft pick in 2000, entered the 2013 season with a career field-goal conversion rate of 80.6 percent, with 75 attempts from 50 yards or longer. Thus far this season, he is 7-for-11 (a career-worst 63.6 percent) overall, 1-3 from 50 or more.
Knee-jerk reaction? Maybe. Small sample size? Definitely. But this much is true: the 35-year-old Janikowski, who was signed to a four-year contract extension in training camp that will pay him upwards of $19 million through 2017, has already missed more field-goal attempts in six games this season -- four -- than he did all of last year – three.
There has been a common factor as all four misses have come when the left-footed Janikowski has kicked from the left hashmark, and the first three shanks were all wide left.
Then came last week’s misfire, the strongest leg in the game coming up short when he “toed” the ball.
Many point to Janikowski potentially having a mental block as the team breaks in a new holder in Marquette King after 13 years with Shane Lechler. Others wonder if Janikowski is still feeling the effects of calf and hamstring issues from late in camp. Hey, at least the dirt baseball infield should be gone this week, right?
Raiders special teams coach Bobby April, though, told reporters Janikowski was healthy. It all made for some interesting food for thought as the Raiders return to work Monday from their bye week to prepare for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Especially when you consider how costly Janikowski’s misses have been and, in the hindsight-is-20-20 world of sports, they could be the difference between the Raiders being 2-4 and 4-2.
A look, then, at Janikowski’s misses, and how they factored into the final result:
The game: Indianapolis Colts 21, Raiders 17
The miss: Janikowski whiffed from 48 yards as the first half of the season opener at Lucas Oil Stadium came to a close. It was his first miss from under 50 yards since 2011.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda: Not only do the Raiders pull to within 14-10 of the Colts at the half, but the Raiders would have been within 21-20 at the end of the game. And with Terrelle Pryor having led the Raiders to the Colts’ 8-yard line in the last 73 seconds, Oakland would have merely needed a chip-shot 26-yard field goal from Janikowski to upset the Colts, rather than a touchdown that never came.
The game: Raiders 19, Jacksonville Jaguars 9
The miss: Janikowski shanked it from 35 yards with 4:11 to play in the first half at the O.co Coliseum in the Raiders’ home opener. It was his first miss from under 40 yards in 54 attempts.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda: The Raiders would have gone up 10-3. No matter, Janikowski made four other field goals after the miss -- from 46, 30, 29 and 29 yards -- as Oakland cruised.
The game: Washington 24, Raiders 14
The miss: Janikowski was off from 52 yards at the 6:55 mark of the third quarter as the Raiders’ implosion under Matt Flynn, with Pryor concussed, continued in Week 4.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda: Make the 52-yarder, and the Raiders extend what had been a 14-0 lead to 17-10. Instead, Washington took advantage of the relatively short field after the miss and drove 58 yards to score a touchdown and take the 17-14 lead it would not relinquish.
The game: Kansas City Chiefs 24, Raiders 7
The miss: Janikowski raised many an eyebrow on both sidelines when he was short on his 51-yarder with 12:26 to play in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 6. Long snapper Jon Condo said he could tell by the sound of foot meeting ball Janikowski had “toed” it.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda: The 51-yarder would have given the Raiders a 3-0 lead and, coupled with Pryor’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Denarius Moore on their next offensive series, Oakland would have held a 10-0 advantage on the Chiefs in a game the Raiders were winning in every phase until just before the half.