Fair catch kick is Cox flashback
Fred Cox caught only 10 minutes of the New York Giants’ 37-29 nationally televised win in Arizona Sunday.
However, one of the things he saw was an NFL rarity: the Cards’ Neil Rackers missing a 68-yard fair catch kick on the last play of the first half.
“I had a flashback,” said Cox, a Monongahela native who still stands out as the Minnesota Vikings all-time leading scorer.
Cox became only the third player in NFL history to make a kick after a fair catch on a punt. He hit a 40-yarder to close the first half in a 20-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Minnesota Dec. 4, 1966.
“It was the scariest field goal I ever kicked,” recalled Cox, who ended up making 282 three-pointers in his 15-year NFL career. “It’s a strange feeling when you’re out there by yourself and no one is rushing you.”
Cox had a second opportunity two seasons later but came up short on a 47-yarder at the end of the half in the Vikings’ 30-20 victory in San Francisco over the 49ers.
Chicago’s Mac Percival is the only kicker since Cox to convert a fair catch kick. He hit a 43-yarder with 20 seconds remaining in Green Bay to edge the Packers, 13-10, in 1968.
Making the fair catch kicks before Cox were the New York Giants’ Ken Strong with a 30-yarder against Green Bay in the third quarter in 1933 and Green Bay’s Paul Hornung with a 52-yarder in 1964 to end the first half against Chicago.
In NFL history, 19 fair catch kicks have been attempted with only six since 1979.
“It’s less likely to happen today because the goal posts were on the goal line when i played,” said Cox. “Now they’re 10 yards further back but I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more in indoor stadiums. Coaches don’t think about it.”
Cox,whose coaches were Norm Van Brocklin in 1966 and Bud Grant in 1968, is one of only two players to try more than one fair catch kick. The other was the Washington Redskins’ Curt Knight who went wide left on a 56-yarder in 1969 against San Francisco and missed a 49-yarder against Denver the following year.
Before Rackers the last player to try a fair catch kick was Tennessee’s Rob Bironas, who was short on a 58-yarder against Houston in 2005.
The longest attempted fair catch kicks were a 74-yarder by the Redskins’ Mark Moseley against the Giants in 1979 and a 73-yarder by Denver’s Fred Steinford against New England the following season.
The Los Angeles Rams’ David Ray has the lone fair catch kick on Monday Night Football, missing a 45-yarder against the Baltimore Colts in 1971.
Getting back to Rackers, Cox felt the Cardinals’ nine-year pro didn’t take the right approach on his kick.
“I thought he did the wrong thing by taking a run at the ball,” he said. “The difference is only three or four yards when you take an eight-yard run or the regular two steps. The accuracy is dramatically less when you run. He kicked the ball way too high and it was a knuckleball.”