INDIANAPOLIS – Last week against Kansas City,
The performance came just six days after Vinatieri’s 12 points against Jacksonville boosted him past 2,000 and into fifth-place in NFL regular-season scoring.
The 18th-year kicker who is in his 14th playoffs returns to where his career started in 1996, and no less an authority than the only coach to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span believes Vinatieri should have one more destination.
“I have the utmost respect for Adam and the way he approaches (and) does his job,” said Bill Belichick. “It seems like every year you turn on the film and he’s making 50-yard field goals and kicking them right down the middle and doing the same things that he did in (1996).
“He’s a great player and a Hall of Fame kicker if there ever was one.”
Players are eligible for induction five years after retiring, something Vinatieri never has mentioned. Why should he? He just booted a career-high 35 field goals in 40 attempts and tied the NFL mark with a 16th 100-point season.
Vinatieri has won in four-of-five Super Bowl appearances, one victory and participation from tying the all-time records in both categories.
Fifteen other players have played in five Super Bowls, with Mike Lodish owning six appearances. Charles Haley is the leader with five Super Bowl triumphs.
Vinatieri is in his 25th Colts-Patriots battle. With 1,158 points with New England and 848 with Indianapolis, he loves the competitive series.
“Fun games, a fun rivalry,” said Vinatieri, a Super Bowl winner with both franchises. “It seems like every year we have an opportunity to play them in meaningful games, so this is no different.
“It never gets old – two great organizations, great coaches, great players, obviously. It’s the Sox-Yankees, if you will. I think both teams respect each other and know what comes to the table. It’s going to be a fun game.”
Vinatieri has hit 50-yard kicks in 11 different seasons and has nailed 43 of his last 46 inside 50 yards, a pace that holds no surprise for Belichick.
“When he was here, (he) was one of our hardest workers. He worked out with the position players and was never looked at as a kicker in terms of training,” said Belichick. “Mentally, he’s as tough as they come.
“I can’t think of anybody that I’ve coached that I would put ahead of him in terms of mental toughness, concentration, focus, professionalism. He just did his job as well as he could possibly do it every day.”
Cognizant of individual totals but driven by team results, Vinatieri is more proud of his 205 post-season points than 2,006 regular-season points.
“I think the playoffs are kind of the thing that you’re always about,” said Vinatieri. “We all play the sport that we love, but the playoffs are the one thing that you want to have the opportunities to get out there and do.
“There are 20 teams that don’t even make it. There’s only eight teams left, and every week it drops in half from here on out. (The) playoffs are what it’s all about. There’s a lot of fun things about this sport, but trying to hoist that trophy at the end is what we all play for.”
Saturday will mark Vinatieri’s 27th career playoff game. He is tied currently with Larry Cole and Bill Romanowski for the third-highest total. A win against New England will give Vinatieri a chance for playoff game number 28. He would move past D.D. Lewis at that point, with Jerry Rice (29) being the NFL post-season career leader.
As for the estimation that he is Hall-worthy coming from a coach who will reside there one day?
“I don’t know about all that, but I appreciate it,” said Vinatieri. “It’s one of those things we’re going to keep going to work and doing our best and hopefully we can make a difference.
“I have a huge respect for Coach Belichick. He’s an Xs and Os guy. He always has his team ready and has a good game plan. We have to go out and execute. They’ll do things to try to make it hard on us. It’s the same thing that we’re going to do for them, try to make them play left-handed, if you will. The better team will win.”
INJURY REPORT – Out: Heyward-Bey; Probable: Franklin, Holmes, McNary, Landry.