FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — If it weren't for kicker Younghoe Koo, the Atlanta Falcons would have two more guaranteed losses on their already 4-5 record. Possibly even three.
Koo made do-or-die field goals to put the bow on top of the Falcons' victories in Weeks 2 (Green Bay Packers) and 5 (Houston Texans). Then, in Week 7 (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), his at-the-buzzer field goal prevented Atlanta from risking an overtime finish.
Even ignoring those standout moments, Koo deserves a lot of credit for any of the Falcons' success this season. Through nine games, Koo has been responsible for 43.4% of all his team's points. With 12 extra points and 20 field goals, Koo has put 72 points on the scoreboard. The Falcons, in total, own 166 points.
The offense can claim 55.4% of Atlanta's points, yielding a 2-point conversion and 15 touchdowns for a total of 92. Even the defense has a stake in this numbers game, with a safety prompting two points for 1.2% of the sum.
When broken down game by game, Koo has scored at least 50% of the Falcons' points in four games. Heck, he scored 100% of the Falcons' points in Week 3 (Detroit Lions).
"He doesn't surprise me," Falcons special teams coordinator Marquice Williams said, "because I know the work that he puts in day in and day out."
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Seven different players have scored an offensive touchdown. Koo, unsurprisingly so, is therefore the Falcons' leading scorer. The next-best, though, has 52 points fewer. Running back Tyler Allgeier is No. 2 on the scoring list with 20 points – the sole 2-pointer and three touchdowns.
Koo has left some points on the field, too. He has missed an extra point and a field goal in 13 and 21 attempts, respectively.
"Because of his mindset, who he is as an individual and who he is as a leader, it doesn't surprise me what he's doing," Williams said. "His best days are yet to come because he knows we have a lot of work to put in to finish the season strong."
And the Falcons need him. The stats prove that. So does perspective: Koo's situation is rather unique when looking around the NFL.
Koo is one of just five kickers who account for at least 40% of their teams' total points, and he has the third-highest percentage in the league.
- Tennessee Titans (3-5): Nick Folk, 70/145 (47.3%)
- New York Jets (4-4): Greg Zuerlein, 60/132 (45.5%)
- Atlanta Falcons (4-5): Younghoe Koo, 72/166 (43.4%)
- New York Giants (2-7): Graham Gano, 41/101 (40.6%)
- Cleveland Browns (5-3): Dustin Hopkins, 73/181 (40.3%)
For further perspective, it's worth looking at the opposite end of the spectrum on a broader scale: the highest-scoring offense and highest-scoring kicker.
- The Miami Dolphins (6-3) boast the highest-scoring offense with 285 points. Their kicker, Jason Sanders, has made seven field goals and 36 PATs for an individual count of 57 points. That's 20% of the Dolphins' total. The Dolphins' leading scorer is actually running back Raheem Mostert, with 13 touchdowns for 78 points (27.4% of the total).
- Jake Elliott is the highest-scoring kicker, with 80 points for the Philadelphia Eagles (8-1). He has made 18 field goals and 26 extra points. His personal tally makes up 31.7% of the Eagles' 252 points. Elliott is the Eagles' leading scorer. Quarterback Jalen Hurts is 38 points short as their No. 2 guy (42 points, or 16.7% of the total).
A reason behind why Sanders' and Elliott's outputs aren't as dramatic as Koo's when compared to their respective team's overall output could come down to opportunity. The Dolphins have the No. 1 red-zone offense, converting on 24 of their 32 visits (75%). The Eagles are No. 13 with a 20-of-36 conversion rate (55.5%). They're both in the top half of the league there, while the Falcons are No. 19, converting on exactly half of the 28 visits.
Being able to punch the ball into the end zone has been something Falcons head coach Arthur Smith has harped on in recent weeks, as turnovers have been a notable sore spot with nine in the last four games alone. Until Atlanta figures out how to better execute offensively and score touchdowns more often, at least it has Koo to confidently rely on.
"That is a huge benefit," Smith said. "He is a very good player and a big part of this team. He is the reason why we win a lot of times."
Take an overhead look back at the game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Minnesota Vikings during Week 9.