Vinatieri hoping to score big as Bills, Colts square off
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Adam Vinatieri is preparing for Sunday’s game just like all the others.
He figures if the same, simple routine helped him earn four Super Bowl rings, 226 victories and become the best clutch kicker in NFL history, it should be good enough to help him break the NFL’s career scoring record.
The 23-year veteran needs 10 points to break Morten Andersen’s record (2,544) — though you wouldn’t even know it from Vinatieri’s unflappable demeanor. He’s so focused on ending Indy’s four-game losing streak, he hasn’t bothered contemplating a celebration.
“I’m not an overly charismatic guy when it comes to certain things like that. I don’t have a dance or a celebration or any of that stuff lined up,” he said. “The crazy thing is it usually happens in the middle of a game and I try to stay super focused in, not wanting to be a distraction to team.”
So far, he’s stuck to the plan.
When he broke Andersen’s career field goals mark in a Sept. 30 loss to Houston, Vinatieri’s teammates looked more excited than the traditionally stoic kicker.
And whenever the next record falls — against Buffalo (2-4) this weekend, next week at Oakland or sometime after Indy’s bye on Nov. 4 — those who know Vinatieri best say he’s earned the right to do his own thing.
“We probably don’t appreciate him enough,” quarterback Andrew Luck said. “The most impressive thing is his approach, his humility, how he prepares. He’s great. I certainly feel fortunate to play with him and it’s one of the things I look forward to telling my kids and grandkids about.”
The Bills understand just how good Vinatieri has been through the years.
For the first nine seasons of Vinatieri’s career, Buffalo faced him twice a season as an AFC East rival. In fact, two of Vinatieri’s 27 game-winning field goals came against the Bills and his postseason prowess helped turn a young soccer player, Stephen Hauschka , into a fan of the Patriots, Vinatieri and kicking.
“His picture was in my dorm room, a signed photo of him kicking in the snow game and it’s still in my parent’s house in my old room,” said Haushcka, Buffalo’s kicker.
“I wasn’t like one of those crazy fans, but I look up to the guy. I think anybody does and what he’s been able to do. The fact that he’s able to still do it in his mid-40s is really impressive.”
Andersen, who played high school football in Indy, has held the record since December 2006 and Vinatieri is the only other player to top the 2,500-point mark. Vinatieri also is the only player in league history to score 1,000 points with two different franchises.
But now, with the league’s oldest player at age 43, on the verge of history again, he doesn’t want to make it about himself. He’d just rather help the Colts earn their 300th victory since moving from Baltimore to Indy in 1984.
“I just want to stay focused on football,” Vinatieri said. “I don’t want it to be a reason for a lull in momentum. I love the fact that guys are happy and excited, I love to be a part of that, too, I just don’t have a bunch of good dance moves or any crazy stuff.”
Josh Allen’s sprained right elbow is a major setback for Buffalo. Coach Sean McDermott ruled out the rookie quarterback Wednesday and announced 35-year-old Derek Anderson will get the start one week after coming out of retirement.
The truth is, McDermott didn’t have many options. Backup Nathan Peterman has thrown four interceptions in less than four full quarters this season, including two in the final two minutes of last week’s loss to Houston.
Hall of Famers Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas are among a group of former Bills players expected to attend Sunday’s game and they’ll be watching a former teammate, Frank Reich, coach from the opposite sideline.
It’s the first time Reich will serve as a head coach against the team he once led to one of the greatest playoff comebacks in league history.
“It’s a really close-knit group,” Reich said, before responding to a question about the 32-point rally he engineered against Houston in January 1993. “It’s crazy, it’s so long ago. I know it’s on television every now and then, but it’s not something I talk about very much.”
The Bills’ defense has improved dramatically since allowing 75 points in the first six quarters of the season.
Buffalo has forced two or more takeaways in each of its past four games while picking off five passes and recovering six fumbles. The red-zone defense also has limited opponents to four TDs and four field goals in the past nine drives inside the 20-yard line.
Luck is 186 of 288 in six starts this season and leads the league in both categories. His 16 TD passes are second in the NFL and he’s thrown at least one TD pass in 29 consecutive games — one short of tying Dan Marino, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan for the eighth-longest streak in NFL history.
But Luck also shares the league lead in another category, interceptions (eight).
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Buffalo also contributed to this report.