Putting Younghoe Koo's near-perfect start into historical context

Koo could end up with the most field goals made in a single season in league history

September 27, 2020. That date marks the last time that Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo missed a field goal attempt.

It's his only miss this season.

That miscue came on a 48-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter of a 30-26 loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 3. It was reported that Koo sustained a groin injury during pre-game warmups, an injury that caused the Falcons to use punter Sterling Hofrichter on kickoffs and forced him to miss the team's following game against the Green Bay Packers.

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Something is only truly noteworthy if it differs from the expected or the routine, which is why this story begins with Koo's last – and only – miss.

"He's definitely coming in to his own," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. "You can see his confidence continuing to grow and build. I've been impressed with his maturation the last year and a half. We certainly have a lot of confidence in him. We feel like if we get it past the 40, he's proven time and time again that he's going to put it through the uprights for us."

Koo has made 32 of his 33 field goal attempts so far this season for Atlanta, which ties him for the second-most field goals made through the first 12 games of a season in NFL history. Even more impressive is how accurate he's been from long distance.

In each of the Falcons' previous four games, Koo, the NFC's Special Teams Player of the Month in November, has made a field goal of at least 50 yards, which is the longest streak in franchise history and tied for the longest streak in NFL history since the AFL-NFL merger. For the season, Koo is a perfect 7-for-7 on kicks from 50-plus yards; he's 7-of-8 on kicks between 40-49 yards and has made all 18 of his attempts from between 20-39 yards.

Top five kicking seasons through 12 games

Table inside Article
Kicker Games FGM FGA FG% XPM XPA XP% PTS
Greg Zuerlein (2017) 12 36 38 94.7 35 36 97.2 143
David Akers (2011) 12 32 37 86.5 26 26 100.0 122
Younghoe Koo (2020) 11 32 33 97.0 23 26 88.5 119
Neil Rackers (2005) 11 32 33 97.0 14 14 100.0 110
Lawrence Tynes (2012) 12 32 36 88.9 31 31 100.0 127

Koo currently leads all NFL players with 119 points, and his 32 field goals made ties him with Jay Feely for the second-most in franchise history by a player not named Matt Bryant. The big caveat there, however, is that the Falcons still have four games remaining, and while red-zone woes remain a concern for the offense, Koo should have many more opportunities.

"We kicked too many field goals," interim head coach Raheem Morris said of Koo's three field goal attempts against the Saints. "Koo has been money, but I'd like to see less of him. We'd like to score touchdowns."

Until the Falcons prove they can do that consistently, though, Koo should continue to see a lot of action. Koo is averaging 3.3 field goal attempts so far this season, which means that, if that pace continues, he should get about 13 more chances in 2020. If Koo remains as accurate as he's been this season, he could end up with the most field goals made in a single season in league history.

David Akers currently holds that record. He made 44 field goals on 52 attempts in 2011 for the San Francisco 49ers. Koo has proven to be much more accurate than Akers this season, but that accuracy and volume must remain in place to give him a true shot.

The toughest red zone defense the Falcons will face against the rest of the way is Los Angeles, who they will play this Sunday. The Chargers have the 14th-best red zone defense, while the Buccaneers have the 18th-best red zone defense and the Kansas City Chiefs rank dead last. Still Koo has the range to hit from well beyond the red zone, and the Falcons have just 30 offensive touchdowns to Koo's 33 attempts.

Koo has been money, but I’d like to see less of him. Raheem Morris

With the NFL record within reach, the Falcons' franchise record could become Koo's by the end of Sunday. Bryant currently holds the team record for most field goals made in a season, as he knocked through 34 kicks in both the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Koo is just two shy of tying that number and three away from making more field goals than any other Falcon, a team that had both Bryant and Morten Andersen.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Koo's season, however, is that it's come from a player who had previously been cut by both the Chargers and the New England Patriots. What looked to be a journeyman career delivered him to Atlanta in 2019 as a replacement for Bryant, arguably the team's biggest fan favorite. Koo proved up to the challenge, hitting 23 of his 26 attempts during Atlanta's final eight games.

Atlanta looked to have found a different kicker of the future when Giorgio Tavecchio was perfect in his late-season audition for the Falcons, but he failed to solidify his role in training camp the following year, prompting Atlanta to bring back Bryant.

Koo had no such problems carrying over his success, and it appears – at least this year – he's found a new gear, entirely. Now, he looks set to write his own chapter in Falcons history, a testament to just how far he's come.

"After [being cut by] the Patriots, I just had the mindset of 'let's stay ready for the next opportunity' and when it comes, I knew I was going to make it count," Koo said. "Now, it doesn't really change much. I still remember those feelings, and that's going to be the fire in me to be the best version of me whenever I can."

Through 12 games in the 2020 season, Younghoe Koo is on a pace that could see him make more field goals in a single season than any other kicker in NFL history.

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