INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Coming to an NFL venue near you: Dancing with Vinny.
It’s as certain as cooling temperatures and falling leaves because Adam Vinatieri keeps piling up the points in his relentless pursuit of Morten Andersen’s gold standard.
For 23 seasons, 392 games and nearly 1,400 successful kicks, the routine has been virtually the same.
Snap, hold, whack! traditional post-kick reaction.
A Vinatieri field goal or extra point cartwheels through the uprights and he immediately gives a fist pump and slaps hands with his holder. During his 13-year Colts career, it’s been Hunter Smith, Pat McAfee and Rigoberto Sanchez. The previous 10 seasons in New England it was Tom Tupa, Lee Johnson, Ken Walter and Josh Miller.
Then, there’s the mosh-pit meeting with his teammates. Head slaps, chest bumps, general jostling as Vinatieri temporarily disappears amid his humongous blockers.
When his 42-yard field goal in the second quarter against Houston in week 4 – No. 566 – eclipsed Andersen’s all-time record, Texans’ defensive end J.J. Watt made it a point to crash the post-kick party and congratulate Vinatieri.
The next milepost, though, won’t be celebrated in similar fashion.
Something’s up. Something’s in the works.
Vinatieri has pushed his career point total to 2,535. He needs 10 more to replace Andersen as the NFL’s all-time leader in the only stat that really matters.
“They keep score,’’ Andrew Luck noted. “Sports and points go together, right? It denotes a winner and a loser.
“Do you want to argue with a guy who’s scored the most points in this game?’’
That will be Vinatieri’s status. Soon. Given his druthers, it will happen Sunday, against the Buffalo Bills in Lucas Oil Stadium. Records always are sweeter when achieved in front of the home folks.
He already has scored in double-digits three times this season: 11 in the opener against Cincinnati, 10 at Philadelphia, 10 against the Jets.
Whenever Andersen’s record falls, keep your attention focused on the Colts’ kicking triumvirate: Vinatieri, Sanchez and long-snapper Luke Rhodes.
Vinatieri slowly shook his head at the thought of what might be coming.
“The guys are all joking around, ‘Hey, we’ve got to come up with some crazy dance,’’’ he said. “That’s not really my style. I haven’t planned anything.
“If we’re going to do something, we’d better figure it out pretty soon.’’
That’s precisely the plan.
“We’re still working on it,’’ Sanchez said. “It’s a secret.
“It’ll be something special.’’
As much as Sanchez and Rhodes want to have some fun with Vinatieri’s record point(s), there’s much more to it.
“We want to have something he’ll remember and something people enjoy,’’ Rhodes said. “We’ll find something.’’
Rhodes is 25 and the latest of Vinatieri’s trusty snappers: Matt Overton, Justin Snow, Mike Bartrum, Lonnie Paxton, Brian Kinchen. Sanchez is 24 and was 2 when Vinatieri embarked on his 23-year pursuit of Andersen with his first career points: a 23-yard field goal Sept. 1, 1996 at Miami.
Will the age gap make it difficult to come up with a suitable routine? Remember the 45-year old Vinatieri is the NFL’s oldest active player. He turns 46 Dec. 28.
“He’s still young at heart,’’ Rhodes said. “He’ll do whatever we come up with, I’m sure.’’
Any hint on what’s to come?
“When the moment happens,’’ Rhodes said, “you’ll see it.’’
And when the moment happens, Vinatieri will check off yet another lifetime achievement.
Ask what still drives him in his 23rd season, and he’ll immediately mention the desire to add a fifth championship ring to his collection. But when Vinatieri allows the discussion to take on more of an individual tone, he’ll admit “it’s cool’’ to break this record, eclipse that mark.
And at the risk of having him prioritize which NFL record carries more weight, you get the impression the next one stands above the rest.
“Winning and losing. It’s always about that,’’ Vinatieri said. “That’s always the most important thing and you can’t win games if you don’t put points on the board.
“It sounds elementary, but you just have to score more than they do. They always say defense wins championships, and I agree to a certain degree. But you’ve still got to score points.’’
Several factors have contributed to Vinatieri being on the doorstep of yet another all-time NFL record. Among them:
- Hanging out with the right guys. Consider the quarterbacks who’ve put him in position to knock down field goals and PATs: Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady in New England; Peyton Manning and Luck in Indy.
“I always talk about that,’’ Vinatieri said. “People always talk to me about my legacy and my years and this and that. I go, ‘It would have never been like that if I had been on a lousy team.’ We don’t have great years every year. We’ve had a couple of dips.
“But all in all, I’ve been on really good teams the majority of my career playing with some really, really good players. I mean, how many Hall of Famers have I played with? A lot. How many great coaches have I played under that are Hall of Famers? A lot.
“You have to have the right skill set to get here, but you also have to be in the right position and the right circumstance. I feel like I’ve had a horseshoe up my rear end the whole time.’’
- Being relentless. Let this figure roll around in your head: 99.1 percent. That’s how often Vinatieri has contributed something to his team. In his 342 career regular-season games, he’s failed to score at least one point only three times. He was shut out twice in New England, once with the Colts.
Vinatieri also holds the NFL postseason record with 234 points in 30 appearances. He’s scored in each of those 30 games.
Not scoring, Vinatieri insisted, “sucks. It’s a lousy feeling because you want to help your team out and your number’s never called.
“That day you feel like you didn’t earn your paycheck.’’
If Vinatieri earns his paycheck and surpasses Andersen against the Bills or next week at Oakland, he would prefer it comes in a victory.
“If and when it happens,’’ he said, “it’s going to be awesome. I’d really like to do it while we’re kicking the crap out of a team or it helps us win.’’
Ideally, the record points are notched on a game-winning field goal, maybe a 50-some yarder as time expires.
“I like that,’’ Vinatieri said. “I might actually celebrate at that point.
“You might see me dancing if that happens.’’