There wasn't a doubt in Head Coach Bruce Arians' mind sending rookie kicker Matt Gay out to kick the potential game-winner from what ended up being a distance of 34 yards. Despite an 18-point lead at the half, the Bucs were now down one with seconds left on the clock and prime field position. Gay had missed two extra points earlier in the game but had been perfect since.
"He had just made five in a row, so yeah, we felt very comfortable," Arians said.
Gay was able to bounce back and hit four field goals in the game. He connected on the last extra point following the Bucs' third touchdown. And to be fair, one of those missed point-after attempts was blocked, which ended up being an overcorrection from the young kicker, according to Arians.
"[They] got penetration a little bit over our guard and it was a low kick because the first one was so high – he tried to kick the second one low and being a rookie – just hit it."
Arians is aware of the kicking 'curse' that has plagued Tampa Bay prior to his arrival. It was part of the reason he ended up drafting a kicker in Gay. And let's be clear – Arians knows his kickers. His son was one. He knows better than to let curses and history dictate how he handles them, too.
"This is a new team," Arians said. "This is our team, this new team. Just go kick."
Rather, Arians rebukes the idea that a kicking curse is the reason the Bucs didn't end up with the win on Sunday, instead acknowledging the other factors in play that wouldn't have made the kick necessary. The offense scored a touchdown only once on five trips inside the red zone, for example. Those are points left on the board. Points that could have prevented the game from coming down to a kick. The defense allowed two straight touchdown drives to begin the second half from the Giants. One stop could have prevented the game from coming down to a kick. You get the point.
"It's just finding ways to win games," Arians said. "We found a way to win in Carolina, we didn't find a way against San Francisco, we didn't find a way [against] New York – we found a way [but] we just didn't get it done. You can't say enough about the two-minute drive to put him there. That's getting lost, Mike [Evans'] day is getting lost, Shaq [Barrett's] day is getting lost because we missed a kick. There were some great performances – there were some really poor ones too, and the kicker was one of those poor ones."
So, do you judge an entire offense and season by the points left on the board in one game when they scored 31 others? Do you judge a defense by a handful of plays surrendered in one half? Do you lose faith in a young kicker after a couple missed kicks?
I'd venture to say no and so does Arians. It's a long season and according to Arians, "[Gay] isn't going anywhere."