NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It couldn’t have started out any worse. Sam Ficken, undrafted out of Penn State in 2015, waited almost three full years to kick in his first NFL regular-season game. But he missed his first extra point attempt wide right, then clanked a 36-yard attempt off the right upright.
Ficken eventually recovered, making his next three extra point attempts. And the Los Angeles Rams ultimately beat the Tennessee Titans27-23 on Sunday, clinching the franchise’s first division title since 2003.
But Ficken left Nissan Stadium uncertain if the Rams will keep him.
“I’m confident in my ability; I’m confident every time they send me out there for a kick,” Ficken said. “As long as I’m here, that’s my mentality, and that’s the way I’m going to think about it.”
But the Rams, 11-4 and sitting as the No. 3 seed in their conference, have no time to mess around at such an important position.
Greg Zuerlein, by far the NFL’s most productive kicker this season, was placed on injured reserve last week with a herniated disk in his back. And Ficken won the right to replace Zuerlein by beating out 11 other kickers at a tryout, several of them with NFL experience. Ficken outperformed the competition, but part of the reason the Rams chose him, special teams coordinator John Fassel said, was because he “doesn’t have any bad mental scars.”
Ficken may have them now, but Rams coach Sean McVay was impressed with his ability to recover from disheartening misses and felt he “kicked the ball off pretty well.”
Still, McVay said postgame, “We’ll continue to evaluate moving forward.”
Zuerlein’s absence hurt the Rams even before Ficken’s first miss. On their first drive, they attempted a fake punt from the Titans’ 32-yard line, well within Zuerlein’s range, and turned the ball over on downs when Johnny Hekker‘s deep pass to Mike Thomas fell incomplete. They later went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Titans’ 13, but Todd Gurley converted it with a 10-yard run.
Ficken, however, remains confident.
Seeing a kick sail through the uprights lifted some of the pressure off him.
“And then it’s just about getting in rhythm,” Ficken said. “As the game went on, I kind of established that, being out on the field more. It’s been a while since I had a real game, but I know what I’m doing. I gotta take care of that. I think next time it won’t be an issue.”