Actually, no one should have been surprised. Vinatieri does it a lot.
Although Vinatieri is best known for his big kicks in big games, including in the snow in the “Tuck Rule” game and two Super Bowl game-winners, Vinatieri has been wildly inconsistent in the postseason and has actually been a below-average kicker in the playoffs over the whole of his 23-year career.
Since Vinatieri entered the NFL in 1996, he is one of 35 kickers who have attempted at least 10 postseason field goals. Of those 35, Vinatieri ranks just 22nd in field goal percentage.
Vinatieri is 56-for-69 in the playoffs in his career, and while it’s nice that he’s lasted long enough and played for good enough teams to attempt 69 postseason field goals, that’s an accuracy rate of just 81 percent. That really isn’t very good by modern kicker standards.
Plenty of today’s kickers have been more accurate in the postseason than Vinatieri: The much-maligned Steelers kicker Chris Boswell is 15-for-15 in the playoffs. Denver’s Brandon McManus is 10-for-10 in the playoffs. Stephen Hauschka is 20-for-21 in the playoffs. Matt Bryant is 14-for-15 in the playoffs. Justin Tucker is 9-for-10 in the playoffs. Mason Crosby is 26-for-29 in the playoffs. Vinatieri’s successor in New England, Stephen Gostkowski, is 34-for-38 in the playoffs.
Fortunately for Vinatieri, the kicks we remember are the famous ones. The Tuck Rule and the two Super Bowl game-winners will always be the first kicks that people remember about Vinatieri. And his incredible longevity while playing for good teams make him likely to end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame some day. But when that day comes, we ought to consider his entire record. That includes some great kicks, but also some misses that other kickers would have made.