With a sports media that just loves story lines, the redemption story in Atlanta tops the list from the past weekend. Matt Schaub and Mike Smith finally won a playoff game, and it was the best playoff game of the weekend. Overlooked, for now, is the second chance their kicker got.
Giants fans remember Matt Bryant.
Big Blue signed Bryant from a life of pawn shops and personal training back in 2002, in a year when the special teams unit was a decided weak link of the team. In a playoff game against San Francisco, the Giants held a big lead late in the second half before the 49ers came storming back to take the lead. A furious rally brought the Giants within range for a game winning field goal.
You could have forgiven Bryant yesterday if he felt like he was watching a NFL Network replay.
In 2002, Bryant never got to show that he could make the 40 yard field goal that would have sent the Giants onward in the playoffs.
In what was a running theme that year, the snap for the field goal attempt was off. Long snapper Trey Junkin, aside from having the coolest name in football at the time, had been signed off the street that week due to injury – and was playing in what would be the last game of a long NFL career. An officiating error prevented Bryant from a second chance at playing the hero.
A decade later, Bryant is an established NFL kicker (or at least as established as a kicker can be) and has kicked a 62-yard field goal (a yard shy of the record). His bad luck in San Fran didn’t send him back to the pawnshop.
Yesterday, after Seattle tried to ice him, Bryant finally got a clean snap and a shot at the ball with everything on the line. Atlanta plays next week – thanks to Bryant’s decade-overdue kick.