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Buffalo Bills 2020 Vision: Breaking Down Tyler Bass’s Record-Breaking Rookie Year!



Well Bills Mafia, just when I thought the 2020 season couldn’t get any better, they went out and literally squished the fish. They suffocated the life out of Tua Turndaballova and the (then) league’s best scoring defense. Best of all, they did it with their varsity and junior varsity squads. (A literal full-team effort.) On offense, Motor and Moss had 83 total yards and two touchdowns while wearing a two-person costume. (Wait, that was Antonio Williams? I couldn’t tell the difference.) Bitcoin Barkley must have switched currencies because he threw some absolute dimes. (Congratulations, Gabriel Davis, on your first 100-yard game.) Meanwhile, on defense, Dean Marlowe had his first multi-interception game, and Josh Norman had a pick-six. I also want to give a special shout-out to Isaiah McKenzie for his delightful display of footballing.

Usually, I would take McKenzie’s performance and run with it for my player profile (much like he took that punt to the house). However, I made a promise to myself (and my editor {Hail to the Chief!}) that I would reserve this one for a player more deserving. I even made a “Draft Day”-style note to keep myself on track:

For the season finale of “2020 Vision”, we will break down the emergence of one Tyler Bass and compare his first year to several Bills greats.

(Don’t worry friends, like Pepperidge Farm, I will remember McKenzie’s career day in the off-season. *Wink*)

The 2020 NFL Draft

Tyler Bass, the strong-legged Georgia Southern product, entered the 2020 NFL Draft as Mel Kiper Jr.’s top-ranked kicker prospect. However, he ended up being the second of three kickers taken, as Buffalo snatched him up in the sixth round (188th overall). (The other two: Justin Rohrwasser, fifth-round/159th overall, and New England grabbed Sam Sloman, seventh-round/248th overall {now Los Angeles Rams}.) Despite being drafted, Bass’s roster spot was anything but assured as he entered training camp.

The Position Battle

This position battle is reminiscent of 2014 when the Bills drafted a strong-legged kicker in the sixth round (Dustin Hopkins) to compete with an established veteran (Dan Carpenter)… History tends to repeat circumstances, and, this time, the Bills should go with the young whippersnapper [Bass].

An excerpt from my kicker battle projection in August. (Courtesy of Buffalo Fanatics)

Bass faced tough competition for the kicker job from incumbent Stephen Hauschka. The 12-year veteran and team captain was both effective on the field and likable off of it. However, his leg had begun to lose its launch in 2018 and 2019, making only five of 12 field goals beyond 50 yards. (Hauschka’s decline is commonly attributed to a bush-league hit by Jets defensive lineman Henry Anderson late in the 2018 season.)

From the limited media coverage available at the time, it is thought that Bass outperformed Hauschka in practice:

We look at everything, from the results, field-goal percentage, to distance of kicks, to kickoffs… We test the wind every single day. The difficulty of kicks, and then, of course, big moments and how do we put him in those situations. That’s where Tyler’s really excelled.

Special Teams Coordinator Heath Farwell on the factors that influenced the kicker battle. (Courtesy of Sal Maiorana)

It was also suggested that Bass’s leg strength sealed the deal. Ultimately, Hauschka was released and Buffalo headed into the regular season with a rookie kicker.

The 2020 Season

Early Struggles

Through his first six and a half games, Bass missed five of 31 kicks (extra points and field goals). (Photo courtesy of Jaime Germano/Rochester Democrat & Chronicle)

On September 13th, 2020, Tyler Bass became the first Bills draft pick to kick for the team since Neil O’Donoghue (1977) when he took the field against the Jets. Like O’Donoghue, he struggled out of the gate. Bass missed his first two career field goal attempts (38 and 32 yards, respectively) in that week one contest. Three weeks later (against the Raiders), he sent an extra point wide right. Then, he missed what would’ve been the game-tying field goal before halftime against the Chiefs. He also missed his first attempt against the Jets in week seven.

Those five missed kicks angered many Bills fans (including my dad, who actually screamed at the TV when Bass missed that 45-yarder against the Jets). Other coaches might have pulled the plug on him at that point. (O’Donoghue was replaced by Jim Ringo after only five games in ’77.) Sean McDermott would be patient.

The Turnaround

In his last nine and a half games, Bass has only missed three of 62 kicks. (Photo courtesy of Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo)

Bass’s rebound began in the second half of that week seven contest as he made four of his last five field goal attempts to single-handedly beat the Jets, 18-10. He went six of eight on the day, tying Steve Christie’s franchise record for made field goals in a game and setting a new franchise record for field goal attempts in a game.

Three weeks later, in Glendale, Arizona, Bass would reach another landmark. According to Pro Football Reference, he became the first in NFL history to make three 50+ yard field goals in one quarter and only the twelfth to do so in a game. He also joined Mike Hollis (2002) and Stephen Hauschka (twice in 2017) as the only Bills to make multiple 50-plus yard field goals in a game.

Kicking His Way into the Record Books (& Bills Fans’ Hearts)

All in all, Tyler Bass has had a stellar first year. He ranked top-ten in the league for all major kicking stats except field-goal percentage and touchback percentage. (He was top-five in extra points made, extra points attempted, kickoffs, and kickoff yards.)

Furthermore, Bass set single-season franchise records in each of the following categories: extra points made (57), extra points attempted (59), kickoffs (101), kickoff yards (6,469), touchbacks (71), and touchback percentage (70.3%). Not bad for a sixth-round pick.

Here’s the kicker (*ba-dum-tss*): Bass was the only rookie placekicker to end the season with the team that drafted him. Rohrwasser was cut in the preseason while Sloman hit the AFC South-clinching field goal for Tennessee.

Comparing His First Year to Bills Greats

Now, let’s take a look beyond the records. How does Bass’s first year stack up to the Bills greats (Pete Gogolak, Scott Norwood, Steve Christie, Rian Lindell, Dan Carpenter, and Stephen Hauschka)?

Player (Year)FGs Made/AttemptedFG%XPs Made/AttemptedXP%Points Scored
Bass (2020)28/3482.457/5996.6141
Gogolak (1964)19/2965.545/4697.8102
Norwood (1985)13/1776.523/23100.062
Christie (1992)24/3080.043/4497.7115
Lindell (2003)17/2470.824/24100.075
Carpenter (2013)33/3691.732/32100.0131
Hauschka (2017)29/3387.929/29100.0116

Even factoring in the rules and offensive philosophies of the eras these greats played in, it is impressive how well Bass fares. He leads the group in made and missed extra points as well as total points scored. However, he missed the same number of extra points as the group combined and posted the worst extra-point percentage.

In field goal metrics, Bass made more field goals than Gogolak, Norwood, Lindell, and Christie in their first season with Buffalo. However, he missed more field goals than Norwood, Carpenter, and Hauschka. He only trails Carpenter and Hauschka in field-goal percentage.

When I wrote my initial roster projection back in August, I knew Tyler Bass would get the job because he was cheaper and had a stronger leg. However, I never could’ve (or would’ve) imagined how well he would do this year. Tyler has the leg to kick the league’s collective Bass for the next decade or two, and I’m all here for it. I will leave you with an adaptation of a popular adage:

Whether from the arm of a quarterback or the leg of a kicker, chicks dig the long ball.

Adam Nannini, Chief Editor of Buffalo Fanatics

Author Notes

* Player/team/draft stats provided by Sports & Pro Football Reference.

* Supplemental Articles

What do you think? How does Bass stack up? Is T-Bass a kicking legend in the making? Let me know on Twitter (@zvaughn2712).