OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Adam Vinatieri has made plenty of tougher kicks in his career – including two last-second field goals to win Super Bowls, a 45-yarder through the snow to win a playoff game and 46 field goals from at least 50 yards in the regular season and postseason.
Vinatieri’s 25-yarder at the end of the second quarter in Indianapolis’ 42-28 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday will surely be one he never forgets.
With that kick, Vinatieri passed Hall of Famer and former Atlanta Falcons’ kicker Morten Andersen to become the NFL’s all-time leading scorer. He added three extra points in the fourth quarter to give him 2,550 for his career — six more than Andersen.
“I never thought I’d play that long,” said the 45-year-old Vinatieri, who is in his 23rd NFL season. “I never thought I’d be standing here talking to you guys about all-time records. But I love my teammates — all of them — for the last 20-something years, unselfishly going out there and helping me do my job. A lot of great memories along the way. I think that’s the best part about this day — less the record and more that we got the record in a win.”
Vinatieri wasn’t sure the record would come this week after re-injuring his right groin last week against Buffalo. He was limited in practice this week but was healthy enough to play the game.
He made an extra point and a 26-yard field goal in the first quarter to tie Andersen’s record before hitting the kick at the end of the half that made him No. 1 by himself.
“I played against him back in 2007, when he was in Atlanta and it might have been about his last year and I just thought, ‘Man, this is unbelievable. This is a record that will never be touched,'” Vinatieri said. “He’s done it so long for so many years and so prolifically, that you know I just thought, man, it’s untouchable. But I guess as you keep going and you just stack years upon years, the numbers start stacking up.”
Vinatieri entered the league with New England as an undrafted free agent out of South Dakota State. He won the job with the Patriots his first season and helped the team reach the Super Bowl.
Vinatieri reached legendary status in the 2001 season when his 45-yard field goal on a snowy night shortly after the Patriots were given a reprieve by the “Tuck Rule” against the Raiders forced overtime in a playoff game. He kicked a game-winner in overtime to send the Patriots to the AFC championship game.
He then made the winning 48-yard kick on the final play of the Super Bowl to lead the Patriots to their first championship and help launch a dynasty.
Vinatieri made the winning 41-yarder two years later with four seconds left to help New England beat Carolina for a second title. He won the Super Bowl again the following year with New England and then after the 2006 season with the Colts.
He’s still going strong more than a decade later.
“I really don’t think we fully appreciate what just happened, or really playing with Vinny,” quarterback Andrew Luck said. “He doesn’t make a big deal out of anything. He approaches everything with such a professionalism and humility and deflects attention, that I think we get blinded to how great — truly great, great — he is. I love playing with him. He’s taught me so much about how to handle yourself and about how to be a pro.”
By JOSH DUBOW, AP Pro Football Writer