Kai Forbath had nerves, "just a little more than normal." A few teammates did, too. The game and the Washington Redskins' playoff hopes were on the line as the rookie kicker — who was perfect in his NFL career — stepped onto the field in overtime.
But if anything is automatic for the Redskins this season, it's Forbath. Just like 13 times before, including twice Sunday, he connected on the field goal, this time from 34 yards out to give his team a 31-28 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
"Those are the moments that kickers want," Forbath said. "When they come, you've got to take advantage of them, and thankfully we did."
Forbath had taken advantage of every field-goal attempt since signing with the Redskins in October. He made it from 48 and 49 yards out to keep Washington alive in the second half against the Ravens.
After Richard Crawford's punt return put the ball well within his range, Forbath had a few minutes to consider the spot he was in.
"I was trying to just think about it like being out at practice every day," he said. "I just tried to stay calm, just make good contact with it and knock it through."
It didn't even matter that the FedEx Field turf was chewed up from rain and more than four quarters of football. Holder Sav Rocca had his spot, and Forbath patted down the grass with his hand to make sure everything was all right.
"It just says a lot about his preparation and his mentality as a kicker just to not let things that he can't control get to him," long snapper Nick Sundberg said. "There are so many external factors — wind, rain, the field being sloppy — that a lot of guys let get in their mind. He's nails."
Linebacker Rob Jackson had some concern, even amid Forbath's perfection. "You never know," he thought. "They could block it, bad snap." No problem, there. Sundberg got it back, and, at that point, special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander's worry disappeared because he knew the field-goal protection unit was much improved from a year ago, when blocks were a frequent occurrence.
This one wasn't getting blocked. It was all up to Forbath.
"I have confidence in him. Complete confidence," Alexander said. "When you got a guy kicking it like that, I'm excited."
Excitement didn't describe Forbath's reaction: "Better than I could've imagined it would feel." For just a couple of seconds, fans were able to forget about Robert Griffin III's knee injury as teammates mobbed the 25-year-old.
"I don't really remember it. It all just happened so fast," Forbath said. "Sav was picking me up. I didn't know what was going on. My helmet came over my eyes. The feeling was just awesome." But not unexpected. Forbath hit a 52-yard game-winner against Oregon State during his senior season at UCLA
Even with some struggles on kickoffs, including one out of bounds against the Ravens, Forbath didn't let that affect him. He had a conversation with special teams coordinator Danny Smith and refocused.
Forbath nailed a touchback late in the fourth quarter, then was good as gold in overtime.
"We gave him a game ball in front of the team. It doesn't surprise me how he handles himself," coach Mike Shanahan said. "I'm glad he's on our football team, that's for sure. He's made everything."
And he's made believers out of his teammates because going 14 for 14 isn't a fluke. Forbath has figured out a successful recipe, and no one wants him to change it now.
"Muscle memory is a crazy thing. As specialist, it's one thing that we rely on more than anything. We go out there and turn our brain off, don't think about anything and just do what your body knows how to do," Sundberg said. "He trusts himself, and I think that's one of his biggest upsides."
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.