Before he drilled a 37-yarder off the right upright Sunday night, Forbath made more consecutive field goals to start a career than anyone in league history. When he lined up for the 17th attempt, in Philadelphia, long snapper Nick Sundberg looked at him and said, “This kick is for the record.” Forbath shrugged and said: “Yeah, I know. Just another kick.”
“He doesn’t even hear the stadium,” said Susy Forbath, his mother. “He’s in his own calm place all the time. I don’t know how.”
Forbath, 25, brings peace to a pressurized craft and an even keel to a maddening profession. After he watches his kicks sail through, even the ones that win a game or set a record, he barely smiles. As he waited at home for his chance, he put in his work and never worried.
“I just kind of kept telling myself the opportunity would come,” Forbath said. “I’m pretty good at staying positive when tough things happen. When I miss a kick, I’ve always been good at coming back and making the next one. I’ve always stayed with that mentality in my career.”
Before Forbath won a tryout and replaced Billy Cundiff, the Redskins had employed 18 kickers since 1994, five more than any other team but too few to find a solution. Drives that sputtered across midfield led to discouragement rather than three points. Narrow victories turned into losses. Forbath has not been along for the Redskins’ magic carpet ride. He has helped fuel it.
“He’s been doing stuff that we’ve been needing for a long time,” veteran wide receiver Santana Moss said.
One prerequisite to becoming an NFL kicker is being one of the best kickers ever. Kicking clinics, coaching specialists and refined techniques have turned a gridiron afterthought into a cottage industry and transformed modern kicking. Twenty-five of the top 33 all-time leaders in field goal percentage, including 11 of the top 12, are active. Kickers have converted 83.9 percent of their field goal attempts this season, which would make the average NFL kicker in 2012 the 12th-most accurate of all time.
Held to the standard they created, kickers became victims of their own success. Jan Stenerud, the only full-time kicker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, made 66.85 percent of his field goals. Kickers are no longer allowed to be so bad. Only one kicker this season – Mason Crosby of the Green Bay Packers – has taken more than 20 attempts and been worse. All NFL kickers are, simultaneously, among the best to ever play and in imminent danger of losing their jobs.