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'It's a routine thing': Younghoe Koo on the mindset required to thrive under pressure

The Falcons kicker has six career game-winning field goals, all within the last three seasons.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Younghoe Koo is as steady and consistent as they come. That defines both his demeanor and production as a Falcons kicker. The veteran misses as often as his pulse rises over nerves, which in both cases is almost never.

He doesn't pat himself on the back over makes. He doesn't fret much over misses.

Last Sunday, though, Koo was admittedly upset. He missed an extra point in a close home clash with Green Bay. He rarely, if ever, does that. He had hit 66 of 68 point-after attempts since the start of the 2021 season.

The error meant the Falcons were chasing a point, trying to outlast and overcome what should be considered a slight disadvantage.

Heightened emotion didn't take Koo off track. It might've done the opposite, adding attention and focus to his tried-and-true routine.

"If anything, it helped me kind of lock in even more than I was," Koo said. "Because of that, I was pretty pissed off and making sure to not letting one become two. But make or miss, I try to go by the (code of): Keep your head high when things are low, but keep it down when things are good."


Koo made field goals of 33 and 39 yards after the missed PAT just before halftime, helping decrease the Falcons deficit. They remained two points down in the game's waning moments, with quarterback Desmond Ridder and running back Bijan Robinson driving into field-goal range.

The Falcons ended up deep in Packers territory with a fourth-and-1 at the Green Bay 7-yard line with roughly a minute left. Koo had been following action on the field and sensed he would have a chance to go win it. While he still wasn't happy about the missed PAT, he flushed it and focused on the task at hand.

He looked at the scoreboard to see if the Packers had a timeout.

"I saw that they didn't," Koo said. "That's when I knew that was it. It was time."

It wasn't time to get swept up in the moment. It was a time to execute and rely on what got him here.

"It's in the preparation. It's what you do during the week. It's what you do pregame, during the game on the sideline, staying in rhythm," Koo said. "And staying in rhythm with the guys -- not only myself, but with (long snapper Liam McCullough and punter/holder Bradley Pinion). (They) did a great job. It's just a routine thing, making sure that your preparation is good and you can fall back on that."


Koo's preparation set him up for success. His execution was flawless with the game on the line, and he sent the 25-yard attempt straight through the uprights. It was his sixth game-winning kick of his career, all within the last three seasons. It was in that moment Koo let some emotion in. For a little while, anyway.

"You can obviously enjoy it and get excited, for sure," Koo said. "Yeah. But for me, if I miss a kick, (I can) get too low. Or if I make a kick, (I can) get too high. And I don't like to ride that roller coaster. It is exciting, and it is good to have emotions towards a game. … But I try to stay as neutral as possible."

This wasn't a redemption arc, a story of Koo making up for a previous mistake. It's about how a proper mentality prepared him for success no matter what happened before. It's a combination of talent and mindset that makes Koo so good in those situations.

"Younghoe has made a lot of big kicks for us," head coach Arthur Smith said. "Koo is about as clutch as there is in this league."

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Take a monochrome look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers during Week 2.

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