The three kickers with the highest field-goal success percentages in 2006 were conspicuous by their absence from the Pro Bowl rosters this past weekend. That group included Jason Elam, who finished the season just two-tenths of a percentage point behind Baltimore’s Matt Stover for the best field-goal season in the league this year. In third place was New Orleans’ John Carney.
That means the league’s three most accurate kickers are 39, 36 and 42 years of age. Elam is the junior member of that trio, but the success of his elder contemporaries — combined with the 2006 return of Morten Andersen, who merely drilled 87 percent of his field-goal attempts, his highest ratio in 21 years — shows that Elam’s future could be lengthy indeed, even as his 15th season approaches, and in spite of the fact that his full-time kickoff days are almost certainly in his rear-view mirror for good.
But the play most observers will remember from Elam’s 2006 season was the one where a kick was bypassed — and his left hamstring was pulled as a result.
“Rainbow Right” was in the Broncos’ arsenal for 12 seasons heading into the Week 13 Sunday Night Football game against Seattle. The Broncos had worked on the play during the week preceding the game and in the final seconds of the first half, Elam saw the chance to make it work.
“I didn’t think (Head Coach Mike Shanahan) would ever, ever run it,” Elam said. “He told me during the week, ‘You can’t pull a hamstring on this.’ He was like a prophet on it. But I walked up to him and said, ‘This is a perfect chance for Rainbow Right … and he said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’”
Elam got the first down and got hurt, but also rebounded nicely, connecting on a 41-yard field-goal attempt seconds later and hitting all nine of his field-goal tries that followed in December.
Sure, there might not have been a pot of gold for Elam at the end of that “Rainbow.” But after drilling a career-high 93.1 percent of his field-goal attempts in 2006, it seems his career arc is nowhere close to its end.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Extended his league record of consecutive 100-point seasons to 14 with a 115-point campaign … Hit 77.7 percent of his attempts from beyond 40 yards (seven out of nine) after connecting on just 58.8 percent of those kicks in 2005 (10 of 17) … Is now ninth all-time in points with 1,672. He needs 28 to surpass Jan Stenerud (1,699), 40 to move ahead of Nick Lowery (1,711) and 65 to overtake Norm Johnson (1,736). Moving past them would move Elam into sixth, where he would trail Morten Andersen (now at 2,445 points), Gary Anderson, George Blanda and active players John Carney and Matt Stover, assuming they return to build off their tallies of 1,749 and 1,715 points, respectively.
NEXT: Defensive end John Engelberger.