Cincinnati Bengals placekicker Mike Nugent has definitely taken it on the chin this year.
After opening the season with five first-half field goals during Cincinnati's regular season opener in Baltimore, Nugent had his sixth try blocked. Then against the Atlanta Falcons, Nugent would miss three of four field goals... in a game that didn't really depend on them. Which Nugent would apply this season?
Nugent missed a 52-yarder against New England (which Lewis said was beaten down by the wind) and then the memorable 36-yard miss against the Carolina Panthers. It happened as time expired, securing a 37-point tie. He was crushed. Defeated. He watched cornerback Adam Jones walk through the locker room shouting that "we work too hard to miss %#*$ like that."
"I don't want to be too technical or over analytical about it," special teams coach Darrin Simmons said. "Sometimes we overanalyze things that are sitting right in front of us and we try to cure ailments that don't need to be cured. We just have to tighten up the details of what he does. I think he'll continue to work on detailing everything he does. His alignment, his walk off, not overcompensating for wind, knowing that when he gets a good clean ball the ball is going to go straight."
Since that miss, Nugent has been perfect. He hit two against the Baltimore Ravens, including a 33-yarder in the fourth that gave Cincinnati a 20-14 lead -- in a game that the Bengals won by three points. He gave Cincinnati a 10-3 lead in the second quarter against the Jaguars and was the lone scorer against the Browns on Thursday Night Football.
Dating back to week three, Nugent has converted nine of his last 11. The 81.8 percent conversion in his last seven games mirrors his career average.
Of all the things critically paralyzing this team, Nugent has been a lesser concern. Cincinnati is dealing with a defense that can't stop the run and an offense that appears to have regressed since Jay Gruden departed for Washington. That's not to say that things won't improve, but as it stands right now, both sides of the football have become a liability.