Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Seahawks’ Steven Hauschka keeps same approach on game-ending kicks

Seattle kicker credits mindset, core training for torrid start to season.

Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka leaves the field victorious after the winning field goal in overtime to beat Tampa Bay on Sunday.

By Bob Condotta
November 6, 2013

RENTON – Reporters who approached Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka after his 27-yard overtime field goal to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday were greeted with a sympathetic smile.

Sorry, he had no great story to tell. For Hauschka, it was just another kick.

“It really is,’’ he said. “It’s not that exciting. It’s a big one because it won the game. But for me it was just the same thing (as any other kick). It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to go through, right?’’

Indeed, that is an essential mindset of the position, that the kick in overtime to win a game that might ultimately decide whether the Seahawks get home-field advantage through the playoffs is the same as the one in practice Wednesday.

And, no doubt, a 27-yarder is about as automatic as it gets in the NFL — kickers have made 122 of 123 attempts in the 20- to 29-yard range this season.

Still, Hauschka remembers his rookie season with the Minnesota Vikings in 2008, when treating a game-winner the same as a practice attempt wasn’t possible.

“Ryan Longwell told me that all the kicks count the same,’’ Hauschka recalled of the former veteran who kicked in the NFL from 1997 to 2012. “I didn’t really understand it because most people think that that kick at the end of the game is way more important than the kick at the beginning of the game.

“But as a kicker you can’t think like that. They are all the same. They all count the same. And you’ve got to treat each kick like it’s another kick. It’s just been a mental thing realizing that. But it clicks with me now, and it’s been really helpful.’’

That realization came as Hauschka learned some hard truths about the business early in his career. He was cut by the Ravens late in the 2009 season after going 9 of 13, with two of the misses playing decisive roles in the outcome of games.

He also had a brief stint with Denver in 2010 before landing in Seattle in 2011.

But everything has come together for the 28-year-old Hauschka with the Seahawks. In his third season as Seattle’s kicker, he’s off to one of the best starts in the NFL.

He has made 18 field goals, tied for fourth in the NFL, including another overtime winner, at Houston.
He has missed only one, a kick that was blocked at Indianapolis. And his percentage of 94.7 is third-best among kickers who rank in the top 20 in made field goals.

“He’s having a great season,’’ Carroll said. “And we’ve recognized the whole mechanism from (snapper) Clint Gresham to (holder) Jon Ryan to Steven. They’re doing a great job for us and they’re just really consistent and performing at a tremendous level. Steven has hit everything, but the one that they knocked down, so he’s had a great first half of this season.’’

Hauschka credits not only a maturing mindset but also some changes in his offseason routine for his current success.

If there was a knock on Hauschka his first two years as Seattle’s kicker, it was his lack of success on longer attempts. He was 3 of 8 from 50-and-beyond the last two seasons while going 46 of 49 inside 50 yards.

To address that, and improve his overall consistency, Hauschka altered his conditioning routine to strengthen the core of his body.

“I just strengthened some muscles in particular that kept shutting down on me and were weak last year,’’ he said. “I get a lot of power from my core. Just like a baseball player, there is a lot of rotation in my swing, so the stronger I can be through there, the more powerful I can be throughout the game and throughout the entire season.’’

It appears to have worked. Hauschka made his only 50-plus attempt this year at Arizona, a 51-yarder, but also hit three from beyond 50 in an exhibition game against Denver and just missed a 61-yarder at San Diego that glanced off the crossbar.

He also said he started his offseason kicking program in March, a little earlier than past years, to further refine his kicking stroke.

“I started with a good, solid, natural stroke back in March and just kind of continued that all the way through,’’ he said. “In years past, I’ve felt maybe I had to change some part of my motion in camp, but this year it was smooth sailing all the way through.’’

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