By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 5, 2007
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Nov. 4 -- Derrick Frost and Shaun Suisham had mentioned the numbers all week: five-for-five. The Washington Redskins' punter and place kicker knew Suisham needed five consecutive field goals to boost his season accuracy rate back to 80 percent, so they figured he might as well make those five at Giants Stadium, a notoriously poor kicking venue.
"Power of the mind," joked Frost Sunday afternoon, after Suisham had indeed made his five field goals, the last a 46-yarder that gave the Redskins a 23-20 overtime win against the New York Jets.
Suisham, a third-year pro, had previously neither made nor attempted five field goals in a game. Before Sunday, he had missed three of his past five attempts: from 39, 41 and 48 yards. And after making five field goals in his first two games this season, he had made just two field goals since.
"I don't let it turn into anything more than that; it's just a couple missed kicks and kind of go from there," Suisham said. "When I miss a kick or make a kick I stay with the same mind-set: Just continue to work. And it'll all work itself out."
Things started well Sunday; despite a short opening kickoff that the Jets returned for a touchdown, Suisham had an impressive first half, making 46-, 40- and 22-yard field goals, and dribbling a well-disguised onside kick to his left, a ball that was recovered by Rock Cartwright. Suisham then equaled his career high for field goals in one game with a 40-yard make in the third quarter.
"He just kept slamming it in there, every time," tackle Chris Samuels said. "Seemed like he was in the zone."
And then came an overtime routine with more false steps than a Mark Cuban samba. As the Redskins ran the ball on their final third down, Suisham took a last practice swing and walked toward special teams coach Danny Smith at midfield. Officials called for a measurement, so Suisham walked back toward his practice net while watching the proceedings on the big screen, before reversing course and again joining Smith for a few words.
He walked out to the field, went through his routine and watched Frost field and place the snap, but officials whistled the play dead and gave the Jets a timeout. There were more words with Smith -- Suisham later said he couldn't even remember what they discussed -- and then he began the routine again, stepping back, raising one arm vertically, and then holding both arms horizontal to the ground.
Making matters more complicated, officials had brought out the "No. 1" ball, the same football that Jets kicker Mike Nugent had used on a 54-yard attempt that had fallen well short just before halftime. Frost and Suisham had discussed the ball earlier in the game, with the punter calling it "crummy."
But the kicker said the elongated build-up did nothing to increase the pressure, nor did the "crummy" ball.
"I mean, it's still the same kick," he repeated several times. "You can't really be thinking about it too much. You just have to put your foot on it and see where it goes from there."
So he put his foot on the ball, and it cleared the crossbar by perhaps three or four yards. Instead of leaping about the field like some of his kicking brethren, his celebration consisted of a placid embrace with Frost.
"I'm not much of a dancer, I guess," he said.
He then retreated into a locker room filled with shouts of "Shazzam!" the nickname cornerback Fred Smoot has given Suisham.
"Every time he kicks the ball, 'Shazzam!' it's good," Smoot attempted to explain. "It's all up to that one big toe on your team, the kicker. So if that toe don't hit that ball right, you know how it goes."
After helping the Redskins escape with a win Sunday, Suisham faced plenty of questions about hitting that ball right. There were questions about his brief struggles, about his career day and about the pressures of overtime, but he parried them all with a laugh.
"When we have the opportunity to do things like that, you feel a little bit more like a football player," he said. "Kicking is a pretty simple skill if you're doing it well. I try not to over-think when I'm doing it. It's as simple as kicking a ball and kicking it straight."