- Associated Press - Friday, November 12, 2010

ENGLEWOOD, COLO. (AP) - When Jason Hanson entered the NFL nearly two decades ago, he got hugs and high-fives for nailing a long field goal.

Now, he’s lucky to get a handshake.

“It used to be 45 and over was, ‘Great kick! You made it!’” the Detroit Lions kicker recounted. “Now, it’s like, you miss under 50 and people are kind of like, ‘What’s the matter?’”

Football players have gotten bigger, faster and stronger over the years _ it’s why the league is cracking down on illegal hits _ but it’s true on both sides of the ball, so the yards per carry or catch stay largely the same from one era to the next.

Not so the numbers in the kicking game.

The goal posts have been 18 1/2 feet wide, the same width as the NFL hash marks, since 1972, and they’ve been at the back of the end zone since 1974.

The kickers aren’t the same at all.

They’re in the weight room more, employ specialized training and superior techniques, kick on more favorable surfaces, generally are better coached and are used more effectively and efficiently on game day.

They benefit from better athleticism than their predecessors, come almost exclusively from soccer backgrounds, are aided by an increased emphasis on special teams and rule changes, and even by playing some of their games indoors.

It all adds up to greater accuracy, especially from long distances.

The success rate has risen steadily from all distances, short and long, during the Super Bowl era, according to STATS LCC.

In 1967, for instance, barely 51 percent of all field goal attempts were good. Today, that figure is 81 percent.

The rise in precision from 50 yards and greater has been especially dramatic:

_1960s: 13.1 percent

_1970s: 21.6 percent

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