The folks in London have yet to enjoy a game between a pair of teams with winning records. But at least they got to watch a fair catch kick on Sunday, in the Panthers-Bucs game.
It happened at the end of the first half, after a trio of illegal procedure calls pushed a Tampa Bay punt back to the point where the kick came from the end zone. Carolina caught the punt with a fair catch at the Tampa 49, setting the stage for application of a little-used (but still fairly well known) tweak in the rules.
After a fair catch, the receiving team may attempt a placekick (or, technically, a dropkick) from the spot of the fair catch. There’s no snap and no rush; it looks like a kickoff, but without a tee.
For Panthers kicker Joey Slye, it was an opportunity to convert the first fair catch kick since Chargers kicker Ray Wersching in 1976, who made a 45-yarder at the half. Before that, Bears kicker Mac Percival made a 43-yarder in 1968 to beat the Packers, returning the favor from four years earlier, when Paul Hornung made a 52-yard fair catch kick at the end of the half of a Packers-Bears game.
At least 10 fair catch kicks have been tried unsuccesfully since Wersching’s successful effort from 43 years ago, with all but one of them longer than Slye’s 59-yard try.
Only six have ever been made, with Hornung’s 52-yarder the longest. Today could have been number seven, but Slye went wide right.