Connor Bryant is on a roll – he's made his last 21 field goal attempts, the longest active streak in the NFL, and lately it doesn't seem to matter from what distance his attempts come. Barth got into this groove in 2011, and he hasn't suffered any fallback in 2012. The key to his continued success on game day this season?
No one's tugging on his socks when it's time to kick.
That's something that Barth has to put up with on the practice field, along with a certain voice that tries insistently to crawl into his head. When game time arrives, and Barth trots onto the grass to make another field goal, it's almost blissfully serene…even with a crowd of 76,000 screaming at him, as was the case on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
It's Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano who messes with Barth's head – and his feet – during practice, and the fifth-year kicker actually appreciates it, in a way. It's like banging your head on the wall…it feels so good when you stop.
"Coach Schiano does a great job in practice," said Barth. "He'll mess with me during field goal period – pull my socks, talk to me the whole time. He did it all through training camp. So it kind of helps you because when you get out there it's a lot easier because there's no one really talking to you out there. It's almost like practice is sometimes a little bit tougher than games because you have him in your ear. The whole time you're like, 'Just get out of my head and let me kick.' So it almost ends up being easier for me in the game."
Something's certainly going right for Barth, because he hasn't missed since October 16 of last year and he's only missed twice since the start of the 2011 campaign. The mental challenges from his new head coach on the practice field are surely helping, but it's actually the two things that didn't change over the offseason that are most responsible for his continued hot streak.
Namely, his snapper is still Andrew Economos and his holder is still Michael Koenen, the same three-man team that made 26 of 28 field goals last year, the finest season in franchise history. Barth appreciates that continuity greatly.
"I told myself to carry over from last year and just continue to build off what I did last year," he said. "It's actually the first time in my career, college or anything, that I've had the same snapper and holder for a second year in a row. So it's been nice to come in this year knowing I have Mike and Eco holding and snapping for me. It just makes the routine so much easier."
Even long kicks are becoming routine for the Bucs' kicker. He had established a new team record by running his successful field goal streak to 18 in the season opener, and to get it to 20 in New York he had to hit from 45 and then 52 yards. No problem. Since the start of last season Barth has made 15 of his 16 attempts from 40-49 yards and three of four from 50 or further.
Each kick, whatever distance, gets the same treatment.
"Going into my fifth year know I've kind of learned that you don't want to look and see what you want to be at the end of the year," said Barth. "You take it one kick at a time, just treat that like it's a one-game season. Sometimes kicking gets a little bit crazy, but for me it's just easy. As long as I finish to the target, 90 percent of the time it's going to go in."