EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -Ryan Longwell's 34-year-old right leg is as strong as ever.
Overshadowed in the shuffle of Minnesota's decisive win last week at Jacksonville was the 54-yard field goal Longwell made midway through the first quarter. That gave him four makes from 50-plus yards this year in 11 games, a Vikings record. Jan Stenerud, Fuad Reveiz and Paul Edinger each had three in a single season.
``It's certainly not the big huge deal that it was when you were a rookie and trying to show you belong,'' Longwell said. ``At the same time, every kick is important. Whether it's that 22-yarder or that 54-yarder, you have to approach it the same way and not think it's easier because you have done it before or think it's harder because it's longer.''
ow and where he needs to strike the ball. His kickoffs rarely reach the end zone, but timing improvements he's made have helped the Vikings shore up their coverage.
``I think there's a million guys that can kick it higher and farther in practice, but it comes down to what you do and how you hit it during the game and in crunch time,'' Longwell said.
With 15 more points, Longwell will move into 23rd place on the NFL's all-time scoring list. He's not on a Hall of Fame pace by any means and he's never been picked for the Pro Bowl, but his reliability since signing with the Vikings before the 2006 season has been an easily overlooked virtue while so much attention falls on their offensive inconsistency.
``He's steady, and he's a great competitor,'' coach Brad Childress said. ``I have a lot of trust in him.''
Since Longwell's rookie year with Green Bay in 1997, he's third in the league with 1,334 points - just behind Adam Vinatieri with Jason Elam leading the list.
``I'm sure at some point when my career's over, I'll look back and be pretty proud of it,'' Longwell said. ``But it's something that if you get too caught up in where you are, you forget where you need to go. And I certainly don't want to be in that boat.''
With 91 points and five games to go, Longwell is also narrowly on track to establish a career high for scoring. His 131 points for the Packers in 2000 are the previous best.
``That's what we looked at when we brought him here, and he's done everything we've expected and more,'' Minnesota special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro said. ``He keeps an even keel. And earlier in the year when he missed a couple, he didn't let that get to him.''
Longwell is 25-for-25 on extra points this season and 22-for-26 on field goals. Only one of his misses came during a defeat, and that did prove costly. He made five kicks in an 18-15 loss at home to Indianapolis, but a 48-yarder he pulled wide late in the third quarter with the Vikings lead 15-0 gave the Colts an extra boost for that comeback.
With three home games and trips to Detroit's dome and Arizona's warmth remaining on the schedule, Longwell should benefit from pristine conditions. Perhaps he'll have another chance to line up for a clutch kick in a crucial game. The team has credited him for five winners over the 43 games he's been here.
``He's having a great year, and he's just got to continue to do it,'' Ferraro said. ``Because obviously we're going to have some big opportunities here coming down the stretch.''
Which is exactly the way the perpetually smiling, seemingly calm Longwell wants it.
ep improving and do enough to get to next week. That's the way I've always approached it.''
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AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski contributed to this report.
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