MIAMI, JAN. 6 -- Nick Lowery, who grew up practicing kicks at St. Albans in Northwest Washington, was cut by eight NFL teams before catching on with the Kansas City Chiefs, so he knows disappointment.

When his 52-yard field goal missed carrying over the crossbar by a foot or two and his team lost to the Miami Dolphins, 17-16, in the AFC playoffs Saturday, Lowery was quiet and calm.

He doesn't miss often; he is the NFL's most accurate kicker ever. But when he does miss, he takes it the same way he does a successful kick.

"I like kicking because there are very finite definitions of success and failure," he said. "Either it goes through or it doesn't."

Lowery, whose parents live in McLean, Va., gave himself a "B-plus" for his effort with less than a minute left in the game.

"I hit it pretty well and thought it would carry long enough," Lowery said. "But I didn't make it, so I guess I get a failing grade for that."

Lowery hyperextended his right knee two weeks ago, and though it doesn't show it might have had a slight effect on him. He had not practiced field goals longer than 40 yards since then.

"But I'm kicking as well as I ever have," he said. "I've never kicked better. I'm not going to blame it on my knee."

Lowery, 34, had made 24 consecutive field goals before his miss. He hadn't missed a field goal attempt since the seventh week of the season. For the season he was 37 of 41.

Lowery might have had a much shorter field goal try if not for a holding penalty on the Chiefs. They reached the 15-yard line but were pushed back to the 37 when rookie offensive guard David Szott was called for holding defensive end Brian Sochia on Christian Okoye's 12-yard run.

"You have to switch off your feelings," Lowery said. "I can't marry myself to what goes on on the field. I have to be ready for whatever they give me."

What they gave him was a 52-yard try.

"You shoot your best shot and see what happens," he said. "After all, I'm the hired gun."