Buffalo Bills kicker Dan Carpenter wanted to wait until Tuesday to speak with me about the game.
He quickly had dressed in his civvies and was part way down the corridor to leave the locker room. Then he reluctantly turned to answer a few questions about Sunday’s 30-21 victory over the Houston Texans.
Carpenter kicked a 36-yard field goal with 33 seconds left to cinch it. But he missed a 50-yard attempt in the third quarter and another extra point. Suffice to say, he wasn’t too happy.
The entire interview lasted 54 seconds. So I might as well write out the whole thing here.
Me: Are the misses getting in your head at all?
DC: I missed an extra point.
Me: And the field goal.
DC: I missed a field goal.
Me: Is there anything that’s been happening differently?
DC: I mean, I kicked a 50-yarder off the upright.
Me: Mmm hmm …
Me: You don’t have to apologize to me. It doesn’t matter to me one way or the other. I’m just trying to learn. Then the missed extra points?
DC: Uh, yeah. I mean, I kicked an extra point off the upright, and there isn’t that much else to say.
Me: Why have you kicked from the left hash, and have you considered …
DC: I was in the center today.
Me: OK, I apologize. So is there any common thread to the misses?
DC: Yeah, they seem to be going off the upright. I don’t know. I feel like I’m hitting the ball better now than I ever have before. So it’s just really frustrating that they’re not going in.
Me: All right. Thanks.
I feel shame for not realizing Carpenter had shifted to the center of the field for his extra points. I’m usually watching replays of the touchdown and not paying attention to the kicks – until I hear the crowd groan.
Buffalo likely is stuck with Carpenter. This has been a bad kicking year for several NFL teams because of inconsistencies and injuries. There simply aren’t any better options than Carpenter on the free-agent market.
There’ve been 31 percent more field-goal kickers used this season than there are NFL teams.
“He’s got to work through it,” Bills coach Rex Ryan said. “Like you guys know more than I do, he’s been an excellent kicker here for a number of years, and he’s just going to find his stroke.”
Carpenter, blasted by Ryan in training camp, has missed four extra points and one in consecutive games. Sunday’s miss prevented the Bills from taking a seven-point lead with 1:53 to play. A Texans touchdown on their final drive, and the Bills likely lose.
Houston kicker Nick Novak missed an extra point in the first quarter, but a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter got it back.
Extra points were moved back this season to 33 yards long. Carpenter has made 93.3 percent of his kicks between 30 and 39 yards over his eight-year NFL career.
But this year on extra points, Carpenter ranks third from the NFL bottom at 87.5 percent.
At least he’s not Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Jason Myers, who missed two more Sunday and now is at 79.3 percent. The Jaguars, trying to compensate, also failed to convert a two-point play and lost to the Tennessee Titans by three.
Carpenter, through his first two seasons with Buffalo, made 90.5 percent of his field goals. He has made just 80 percent so far, one of his two worst seasons, and missed a 30-yard attempt in the Week Four loss to the New York Giants.
He made 73.2 percent of his field goals for the Miami Dolphins in 2010, but four of his misses that year were from 50 yards or longer. He has made three of his five attempts from that distance this year.
Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor had himself a game. He threw three touchdown passes and ran for another. He had zero giveaways.
Taylor broke Drew Bledsoe’s 13-year-old record for attempts without an interception. Taylor’s last interception was in the first quarter of the Week Four loss to the New York Giants, 187 (and counting) attempts ago.
Only 1.5 percent of his passes have been intercepted, third in Bills history.
The best? Believe it or not, Joe Ferguson – who twice led the NFL in interceptions – had a 0.7 percent rate when he played only seven games in 1976.
An ominous equation, this: Houston entered Sunday with the NFL’s best third-down defense, while Buffalo ranked second-worst in three-and-out possessions.
Buffalo has gone three-and-out 27.7 percent all year, including a third of Sunday’s possessions.
Houston, however, slipped on third down. Buffalo moved the chains on eight of 16 third downs, including six of its first seven and eight of its first 11.
Buffalo’s first couple of touchdowns came on third down. Sammy Watkins made one of his two 53-yard receptions on third and 10.
Bills cornerback Ronald Darby could earn Defensive Rookie of the Year respect over the final month if he hangs tough.
Top cornerback Stephon Gilmore went down with a shoulder injury in the third quarter and might be sidelined a while.
Gilmore, his left arm in a sling when he walked out of Ralph Wilson Stadium, told me his shoulder “popped out.” Asked if it was dislocated, Gilmore said he wasn’t sure of the diagnosis but would have an MRI on Monday.
Darby outperformed another impressive rookie cornerback. The Bills picked on Kevin Johnson, who was in coverage on Watkins’ 3-yard touchdown, a 53-yard Watkins grab and Robert Woods’ 2-yard touchdown.
Darby had a shaky finish, though. On the Texans’ game-tying drive in the fourth quarter, DeAndre Hopkins caught three passes for 71 yards and a touchdown against Darby.
He went into the game with an NFL-leading 19 pass breakups. He didn’t add any more, but he made seven tackles.
When LeSean McCoy rushes for exactly 112 yards, the Bills win.
He has done so three times in the last five games. They went 3-0. In the two games he didn’t rush for exactly 112 yards, they went 0-2.
McCoy played his 100th career game and celebrated the milestone by becoming the fourth Bill to gain more than 100 scrimmage yards six games in a row, joining O.J. Simpson, Thurman Thomas and C.J. Spiller. Simpson did it nine straight games.
McCoy’s teams are 23-3 when he reaches 100 yards rushing.
We good here?
The Bills had to beat the Texans to remain legitimate wild-card contenders, but didn’t get much help otherwise.
The New York Jets scored 13 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to beat the Giants and remain a game ahead of the Bills. The Kansas City Chiefs also won.
The Bills are in eighth place (top six make the playoffs) and could have inched into seventh place had the Steelers lost on Sunday night.