FOLK HERO! That was the headline on sports pages nationwide on a cold Tuesday morning in 2007. The night before, rookie Nick Folk hit a 53-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football. Buffalo lost, and overall it was an exciting game. The game-winner was Folk’s fourth field goal of the game, with earlier kicks from 49, 27, and 37 yards. The sequence that led to the field goal was also incredible. Folk went for the onside kick and the Cowboys recovered. Then, his first attempt from 53 yards was perfect but nullified by a timeout by Buffalo right before the snap. I was 16, and even though I was more focused on the Patriots attempt at a perfect season, that game is still one of my best memories from that season.
That headline, and that game, were on my mind as Folk lined up for the 51-yard attempt this past Monday night. Despite improvement on offense, a laundry list of injuries on defense allowed the Jets to keep the game close. But Folk clinched the Patriots first victory since week 3 with his game winner. That’s how he earned week 9 Game Ball honors. His contributions to this win The collective sigh of relief from Patriots fans swept the entire country as Folk snapped a four-game losing streak. Folk also added field goals of 45 and 29 yards, along with three successful point-after attempts.
Folk’s career has been up and down before he landed in New England. After two great years in Dallas, his third season was a disappointment. The decline in his performance was mostly due to a previous hip injury, but Dallas decided to move on and waived him after 14 games. After spending 7 seasons with the New York Jets with a 99 percent extra point rate and 82 percent on field goals, he was released in 2017 and signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Like most kickers in Tampa Bay, Folk struggled, making only 54 percent of field goals. And now Folk has kept the time-honored tradtition of players reviving their careers in New England.
Being a kicker in the NFL is extremely difficult. So many games are decided on last-second field goals that the pressure is immense every time the kicker takes the field. Having a good kicker can change an entire season. And in this case, Folk may have provided the spark that the Patriots need to turn things around. He had a rough start to the season with a missed field goal but has definitely made up for it. No longer do Patriots fans have to assume that kicks will be missed in big moments. He has been an asset to the Patriots all season, and continues to contribute as they look to the future.
–Travis Baltes is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @TravisBaltes