St. Louis Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein (4) kicks a 48 yard field goal against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE
(The Rams Tailgate Show) -- Back in April, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said he had no qualms going into the season with rookie kickers. By the time of the draft, punter Donnie Jones had signed with Houston, and the Rams were preparing to jettison kicker Josh Brown's big contract. Brown was promptly released after Greg Zuerlein was selected in the sixth round of the draft. Shortly after the draft, punter Johnny Hekker signed as an undrafted free agent.
In Sunday's 19-13 win over Seattle, Zuerlein and Hekker accounted for all of the team's 19 points with a little help from wide receiver Danny Amendola.
Zuerlein has been nothing short of sensational, making his first 12 field-goal attempts as a pro, including eight from 40 yards or more and three of those from 50 yards or more. In Sunday's game, Zuerlein accounted for 13 of the Rams' 19 points, with four field goals and an extra point. He twice broke the previous team record of 57 with a 58-yarder and then one from 60 yards.
Talking about the decision to try the 60-yarder, Fisher said, "I was on the headsets and I said, 'Field goal,' and somebody said 'Field goal?' I said, 'Yeah, it's only 60. It's well within his range.'"
Asked about the confidence he has in Zuerlein, Fisher said, "I have not doubted him once so ever. From the first day he came on the field, he expects to make it. He has great confidence in his leg. The other thing that's important to realize is we have a really fine snapper (Jake McQuaide) and holder (Hekker) and it takes three to put these things down and to put them together. So, it was good. I had a good feeling about them because he missed his second of two kicks in the pregame warmups, first time he's missed one of those."
Hekker, the holder, executed the pass on a fake field goal from the 2-yard line, where Amendola never left the field from the previous play. He hung around near the sideline and lined up very wide and the Seahawks never saw him. A quarterback in high school, Hekker made the throw and Amendola the catch with a little jump.
Said Hekker, "He jumped unnecessarily I think to make it look ... I'm kidding."
Quarterback Sam Bradford, asked if he has given Hekker any passing tips, said, "No, he throws it pretty good. I've watched him play catch before practice, watched him throw it some. He didn't really need any tips. He's a natural."
Back to Zuerlein. When asked about breaking the club record, he said, "I think, really, it says more about the coaching staff than it does about me. I feel a lot of kickers in the NFL can kick from those distances and make them. It just depends on the faith that the coaches have. (Special teams) coach (John) Fassel and coach Fisher are giving me the chances and I think that's the biggest thing."
As for how he earned the coaches' confidence so quickly, Zuerlein said, "I don't know. Maybe they're gutsy. I don't really know about that. They might be crazy."
Of course, mostly it's because he has shown he can make the long kicks with amazing ease.
As linebacker James Laurinaitis said when asked about the different nicknames given Zuerlein, "He's Rook to me. The thing about Greg is that he's extremely calm, extremely confident, and nothing really gets him riled. You can talk to him, and he'll literally be like; he expects to make it every time within 60 yards. Every time. It's not him being arrogant. It's just that he knows his ability, and he works at it.
"You can see at practice. We do field goals at practice, and that guy, he doesn't miss, and if he does, we give him a hard time about it. He's done a great job for us, and I'm sure he'll continue to do a great job for us."