On January 6, 2019, with 10 seconds left in the wild card playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears K Cody Parkey kicked a 43-yard field goal. Eagles DL Treyvon Hester grazed the kick with a finger. The ball slowly, almost infinitely careened toward the left upright, hit it, dropped to the crossbar, hit it and fell to the ground in the end zone.
Less than two months later, the Bears released Parkey after just one season of his four-year contract.
In their search for a replacement, the Bears signed eight kickers going into organized team activities.
For a moment, everyone remembered how important kickers are.
Down three points with 19 seconds remaining following a stellar stop from the Rams’ defense led by CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, Zuerlein set up for a 48-yard field goal with a raucous Saints crowd filling the Superdome with a deafening earblitz.
Zuerlein’s kick tailed to the right and headed for a miss. But something, maybe cosmic, pulled the ball back inside and tied the game.
In overtime after pressure from EDGE Dante Fowler, Jr. (roster preview), caused a pass from Saints QB Drew Brees to allow S John Johnson III (roster preview) to go Choppa Style, Zuerlein was again asked to bear the weight of the pressure of keeping the Rams’ season alive.
Zuerlein’s foot echoed the thoughts of CB Marcus Peters.
GZ nailed a 57-yarder to send the Rams to Super Bowl LIII and in the process affirm his status among the game’s best.
The lifecycle for NFL kickers can be excruciatingly terse. Unlike other positions, there’s little tolerance.
So as Zuerlein heads into his eighth season kicking for the Rams, fans should have extreme levels of appreciation for having held down the position for so long.
Every damn kick.
Chances of making the final roster (10/10)
It’s going to be hard to top 2018.
But Zuerlein is a special breed. If the Rams come anywhere close to the bar they set last year, Zuerlein will be part of the reason why.