American Football: Patriots salute Vinatieri as 'greatest kicker of all time'

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The Independent Online

Kickers are often viewed with thinly disguised disdain by hardened professionals, but Adam Vinatieri of the New England Patriots has long been held in high esteem by his colleagues: 18 career game-winning field goals, including two in Super Bowls, command respect. With the game on the line, Vinatieri usually delivers, and he did so again on Sunday, as the Patriots edged out the Pittsburgh Steelers 23-20.

Despite being outplayed, the home side had levelled the scores with less than two minutes remaining. With overtime looming, the Patriots duly moved down the field, allowing Vinatieri to attempt a tricky 43-yarder with one second left.

The kick was perfect, and his team-mates were not surprised. "Adam has been in those kind of pressure situations before and made them," said the center Dan Koppen. "He's probably the greatest kicker of all time."

In Philadelphia, David Akers has probably garnered a greater degree of acceptance within the locker-room after playing through pain to ensure victory for the Eagles against the Oakland Raiders. Akers, who sustained a hamstring injury last week, went down heavily following the game's opening kick-off, and his return seemed unlikely. However, when the linebacker Mark Simoneau made a hash of a routine extra-point attempt, Akers was patched up and pressed into service.

With nine seconds on the clock, he converted a 23-yard field goal to give the Eagles a 23-20 victory, then had to be helped from the field in obvious agony. "I never want anyone thinking I'm trying to wimp out," he said. "If I can't go, it's because I physically cannot do it. I'm giving you everything I have."

The kicker was probably the most popular man in Miami on Sunday night too, where the Miami Dolphins had to thank Olindo Mare for their 27-24 verdict over the Carolina Panthers.