INDIANAPOLIS — Tom McMahon has spent the last four-plus seasons as the Indianapolis Colts' special teams coach, and in that time, he's seen the same core specialists take the field each and every season in Indianapolis: kicker Adam Vinatieri, punter Pat McAfee and long snapper Matt Overton.
The consistency from that group year in and year out has no doubt been a massive weight off McMahon's shoulders, but what's perhaps even more impressive is the trio appears to be getting better each and every season.
Last Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears was the ultimate example of this progression. Vinatieri made all five of his field goal attempts — including two from 50-plus yards — and his two extra-point tries, earning AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
McAfee, meanwhile, was likely the 1B option for AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, as he enjoyed perhaps the best overall game of his eight-year NFL career. He punted three times for 190 yards — for an amazing average of 63.3 yards per punt, with a net average of 56.7 yards per punt — including a career-best 74-yard kick that was downed at the Chicago four-yard line.
McMahon is one to tell it like it is: when it's good, you'll know; when it's bad, you'll definitely know. And he says things are good right now for the Colts' specialists.
"To me, those guys are players of the week every week," McMahon said. "Both of those guys are playing well."
Vinatieri's performance this season should really come as no surprise, considering he's been the best overall kicker in the league, consistency-wise, since he came in as a rookie in 1996. But at 43 — and with 21 years of NFL experience under him — one just doesn't see a guy get even better the older he gets.
Yet, here we are, more than a fourth of the way through his 21st NFL season, and Vinatieri has converted 38 straight field goals — the third-best streak in NFL history — and his nine straight makes from 50-plus yards have broken his own Colts franchise record of seven, which he set in 2013-14.
At this pace, Vinatieri is also staring down some numbers in the not-so-distant future that would catapult him to greatest-of-all-time status. Not only is he five straight converted field goals away from breaking the NFL record for consecutive field goals, but he is a couple solid seasons away from becoming the leader of just about every kicking statistical category there is.
How does Vinatieri do it? McMahon said "it's simple."
"With Adam Vinatieri, he lives in the moment," McMahon said. "He's not going to look at the records (until) later on in life; he's not going to look at what he's done in the past. He looks at that play, that moment, what he has to do, where he's got to put his eyes, where he's got to put his foot, and it's that simple. And he makes it that simple, and he does it that way every single time. And those guys are the special guys in this league."
Vinatieri is quick to deflect the praise, instead choosing to acknowledge McAfee (his holder), Overton and the big guys up front protecting him week in and week out.
"It's flying well right now," Vinatieri said after the Bears game. "I definitely have to give a lot of props to the guys up front blocking for me. Matt (Overton) and Pat (McAfee) are doing a fantastic job making my job a little easier, but sometimes they go where they are supposed to go. I'm just happy I made all the kicks today, went out there and helped put points on the board and it was a good day."
McAfee knows behind the scenes, however, that the competitive nature within Vinatieri sets him apart from anybody else to ever play the position.
"Every single thing with him is a competition to him," McAfee said. "And he handles it with class. He's not the obnoxious competitive person. But every single kick to him is a chance to make his team better, but also to improve himself. Every single kick he wants to prove that he's the best kicker ever."