MIAMI -- In a city in which the professional football coach owns a steakhouse and has an expressway named in his honor, and the star quarterback is considered infallible in matters of throwing the football, the Miami Dolphins' least heralded playoff weapon could be a 185-pound kicker.
In his second season, Pete Stoyanovich has demonstrated the kind of leg strength that could make Miamians forget Garo Yepremian (1970-78), Uwe von Schamann (1979-84) and Fuad Reveiz (1985-88), the only three regular kickers during Coach Don Shula's 21 seasons in Miami.
When Stoyanovich's 58-yard field goal sailed over the crossbar last Saturday, it did more than propel the Dolphins on their way to a 17-16 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round of the AFC playoffs.
The field goal, an NFL playoff record and the longest of the season, coupled with his 59-yarder in 1989, confirmed Stoyanovich's stature as one of the league's top long-range kickers and demonstrated how much of a factor he could be in today's playoff game at Buffalo.
This season, Stoyanovich, 23, was named second team All-Pro by the Associated Press behind Kansas City's Nick Lowery. Stoyanovich earned the honor after a regular season in which he converted 21 of 25 field goal attempts. On the long-range scale, Stoyanovich made four of five between 40 and 49 yards, and two of three from beyond 50 yards.
"No one is expected to make 57- or 58-yarders," Stoyanovich said. "But if you give me a nice wind at my back, I'll hit from 63 or 64."
Yet the slight breeze wasn't enough to help Lowery, the NFL's all-time accuracy leader. With 56 seconds remaining, Lowery narrowly missed a 52-yarder that would have put Kansas City into the next round of the playoffs. Over his 12-year career he has made 18 from 50 yards and beyond, but he had not attempted any from that range this season.
The miss gave the Dolphins the victory, and new order -- at least among the league's long-range kickers -- seemed to be established.