|Bironas, yes the kicker, is Titans' best offensive weapon|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 05 January 2008 10:33|
Family sent him the bubbly to celebrate his NFL-record eight field goals and record 26 points against Houston, the second bottle for his selection to the AFC's Pro Bowls squad in just his third NFL season.
But Bironas had to be prompted to remember exactly why he had been given the champagne.
That's how hard he focuses on the job at hand.
``We're going to San Diego. I'll celebrate that stuff after the season with my family and friends. They're in the fridge waiting to be cracked. But that can wait hopefully another month,'' Bironas said.
It's fair to say the Titans might not be playing the Chargers in an AFC wild-card game Sunday in San Diego without Bironas. They have the NFL's fifth-best rushing offense thanks to LenDale White and the league's top running quarterback in Vince Young.
Their best scorer? The kicker, Bironas.
The Kentucky native who turns 30 later this month has been their best offensive weapon this season. He led the NFL with his 35 field goals, which are more field goals made than in any of the four seasons in the Titans' previous playoff appearances under coach Jeff Fisher.
For a team whose nine touchdowns passing are the lowest for a playoff team in a 16-game season, the Titans appreciate Bironas' dependability.
``No doubt about it,'' running back Chris Brown said. ``If we can get at least to the 35, he's automatic. That's the way we feel. Once we get to the 35, we know we have points. We'd rather have touchdowns. But we know when he goes out, it's good.''
Bironas ranked second in the AFC and third in the NFL with 133 points, only three behind Al Del Greco's team record of 136 points in 1998, when Del Greco kicked 36 field goals. Bironas had a streak of 19 straight field goals that ended Nov. 25 when coach Jeff Fisher asked him to attempt a 53-yarder against Houston on Dec. 2.
``As the game starts, I know what his range is,'' Fisher said. ``We expect him to make the kicks within the range. He had a streak going this past year, and I broke it for him because I asked him to try one well outside of his range. Beyond that, he's been very effective. In addition to that, he's kicking off very well.''
The 6-foot, 205-pound Bironas ranked third in the league with 16 touchbacks.
With his powerful leg, Bironas treats every kick the same and doesn't alter his routine. So he uses about 85 percent of his strength to maintain consistency so that it doesn't really matter if it's a 25-yarder or a 50-yarder.
His range is around 54 yards in good conditions, and he is 7-of-12 from 50 yards or longer in his career.
``If it goes past that, I might need to know exactly how far it is so I can put a little more leg into it,'' he said.
The kicker, who won a I-AA championship with Georgia Southern before transferring back to Auburn, appreciates consistency.
He worked for his father in Louisville, Ky., for two years before spending time in training camp with Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh while also playing in the Arena Football League in New York and Carolina, even surviving a stint in the AFL's minor league in Charleston, S.C.
He beat out two other kickers in 2005 and spent his rookie season in an extended stay hotel in case he was cut. The Titans even brought in a rookie to compete against him before this season.
Bironas clinched the Titans' fifth playoff appearance in nine seasons by kicking three field goals last week after Tennessee had fallen behind 10-7. That included a 54-yarder that put the Titans ahead to stay, his fourth field goal from 54 yards or farther in 2007.
But he'd be happier just kicking extra points and deflects any attention away from himself.
``I put up three, that's what I'm here to do,'' he said. ``When my number's called for a field goal or an extra point, I think I can make it regardless of what it is. It's a team effort. We're in the playoffs this year, and it's a team effort all the way around.''