Three days before the Jets journeyed 2,000 miles west to play the Broncos one mile up, special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff expressed a desire for his kicking teams and for kicker Nick Folk:
“I hope we can hit the ball and it stays up there forever.”
It nearly did.
Folk had a golden day for a Jets kicker, nailing a franchise-long 56-yard field goal (which we wrote about Wednesday) and also scoring touchbacks on all five of his kickoffs, which he drove either through the end zone or more than half deep into it.
“That was my best kickoff day, I think, in the NFL,” Folk told me. I think a lot of it, I was just trying to get back to being a very good kickoff guy. That’s what I did in college. I was an extremely good kickoff guy.”
“When I watched him work out,” Westhoff said about the day Folk first came to the Jets back in February, “the thing he improved the most was his kickoffs. Now he’s been up and down with that, that’s been an inconsistency for him, but you could see he had it and his technique was very, very good.”
OK, before we get carried away that Folk won’t be allowing any more kickoff returns this season, we must issue the Denver disclaimer. There is no question that kicks here don’t behave the way they do at sea level. Two facts illustrate that sharply:
■ This season alone, all kickers at Invesco Field at Mile High have produced touchbacks on 84.6 percent of their kickoffs (22 of 26), while all kickers in all other NFL stadiums have gone a mere 16.8 percent (140 of 831).
■ Folk had as many touchbacks in his five kickoffs Sunday as he had in the previous 200 kickoffs in his four-year NFL career.
■ The day Folk broke the Jets’ record for longest field goal in the franchise’s 51-year history, the Broncos’ Matt Prater tied the franchise record for the longest FG by an opponent with his 59-yarder.
Nevertheless, the Green & White played at old Mile High Stadium many times and none of their other kickers had a day like this. Consider that Folk is only the second Jet since NFL kickoffs were moved back to the 30-yard line in 1994 to have five TBs in a game, matching that equally awesome game by John Hall in his rookie debut in the old Kingdome in 1997. And according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Folk is only the fourth Jet with five TBs in a game from any distance since Bobby Howfield (kicking off from the 40) had six in a game in 1972.
We could put it another way: As long as one isn’t fooled by Denver, it’s a great place to work through things.
“I was just trying to get after it a little more because the previous week I had hit one or two kind of short and I wasn’t too happy with those, even though it was really wet, the ball was really heavy,” Folk said reminiscing about rainy Monday night vs. Minnesota.
“We knew they had a good returner back there in Eddie Royal and then [Perrish] Cox or [Demaryius] Thomas, whoever they had back there, was a very dangerous returner, so I just did whatever I could to help us out. I mean, it’s tough to go against our defense, go 80 yards. If we kick off five times, it’s tough to even go once let alone twice or three times.” In fact, the Broncos did it just once.
So that mission was accomplished, and the new hope is that Folk brought some of that Rocky Mountain goodness back east with him for next Sunday against Green Bay and all of November and December. Of the Jets’ last 10 games, all but one (inside in Detroit) will be played outdoors in the Northeast.
“We’re trying to keep it going. We’ll see if we can sneak out a couple of touchbacks and stuff because we’re going to need those late in the year,” he said. “I just try to do whatever I can to help this team win games and I’m happy to just be winning ballgames. That’s the big thing.”
*STS: Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Bobby Howfield, Invesco Field at Mile High, Jay Feely, John Hall, Mike Westhoff, Nick Folk
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