The Raiders won their opener last night, for the first time in eight years. The top play of the game against the Denver Broncos had to be this record-tying field goal… 63 yards by Sebastian Janikowski.

Janikowski now shares the record with New Orleans’ Tom Dempsey (1970) and Denver’s Jason Elam (1998).

There were also some pretty impressive kick offs and punts in the game. In passing the announcers mentioned the kickers got a boost from the mile high air in Denver where they were playing.

Not to diminish anything from the accomplishment (hey, Janikowski made a 70 foot field goal in practice before the game), but I had to look into that. There is quite a bit about how baseballs fly farther in Denver. And this post about the effect of altitude on football:

In the sports of both American football and rugby, a ball can be kicked further in thinner high altitudes than at sea level. American football coaches and their specialist field goal kickers will be inclined to attempt field goals five to seven yards further from the goal in a high altitude venue for this reason.

For baseballs, researchers say the balls will fly an extra 3-7 percent.

Turns out there’s an interesting footnote (so to speak) to one of the other 63-yard field goals… Tom Dempsey’s in 1970:

According to his wikipedia page, Dempsey was born without toes on his kicking foot:

Dempsey was born without toes on his right foot and no fingers on his right arm. He wore a modified shoe with a flattened and enlarged toe surface. This generated controversy about whether such a shoe gave a player an unfair advantage. When reporters would ask him if he thought it was unfair, he said “Unfair eh? How ’bout you try kickin’ a 63 yard field goal to win it with 2 seconds left an’ yer wearin’ a square shoe, oh, yeah and no toes either”.[2] In 1977, the NFL added a rule, informally known as the “Tom Dempsey Rule,” that “any shoe that is worn by a player with an artificial limb on his kicking leg must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe.”

A science lesson, some trivia and a big congrats to Oakland all in one post. There it is.

Video: Raiders’ Janikowski Record-Tying Field Goal 13 September,2011Rachel Dornhelm


Rachel Dornhelm

Rachel Dornhelm has worked as a reporter, editor and producer in public radio for the last twelve years. She got her start in New York City at WNYC and went on to work with the national business program Marketplace, WBUR’s “On Point” and KQED News in San Francisco. Her work has been honored by the LA Press Club and the SF-Peninsula Press Club.

Rachel has a BA with honors in anthropology from Rice University and did graduate work at NYU.

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