Forty-two yards. Forty-two. After everything that had gone wrong in week one, the Colts had a chance. Matt Ryan’s interception and fumble, Ryan Kelly’s snapping miscues, 89 yards in penalties, and a 20-3 deficit and somehow, someway the Colts had a chance. All Rodrigo Blankenship had to do was make a kick, one that he had converted 15 of 18 times in the 40-to-49-yard range in his career according to Pro Football Reference.
Spoiler alert: He didn’t.
The Colts had scratched and clawed their way out of a nearly finished grave, just to make it out, shake hands with the Houston gravedigger, and call it a draw.
The Colts, who hadn’t won a game in eight season openers, walked out of NRG Stadium with a 20-20 tie in their record book against AFC South division rival Houston Texans.
In a very strange way the Colts are still tied for a division lead at 0-0-1 after the Tennessee Titans dropped a 21-20 thriller against the New York Giants, and the Jacksonville Jaguars fell to the Carson Wentz-led Washington Commanders 28-22.
Really Carson? Over 300 yards and four touchdowns against Jacksonville. Where was that eight months ago?
Nonetheless, Frank Reich was not content with the loss.
“Obviously, very disappointed with the results of the game,” Reich said. “We really came here to be 1-0. That’s our whole mantra. That’s what we do. We did not attain that goal today.”
The Athletic’s Zak Keefer made the point following the post game press conference that
Frank Reich nearly always gives struggling players a vote of confidence following a bad game, this was not the case for Blankenship.
While harsh of Reich considering his performance Sunday, the writing was on the wall prior to the official decision that came out early afternoon Tuesday.
Following the release of Rodrigo Blankenship, the Colts have signed kickers Chase McLaughlin, who played four games for Indy in 2019, and Lucas Havisik, who played five seasons for the Arizona Wildcats.
While working the kickers out and making a decision based on the results is the more traditional way of going about a kicker discrepancy, Chris Ballard is a habitually indecisive general manager. So, how about I make the decision for him?
My original choice would have been Josh Lambo who started the last five seasons for the Jacksonville Jaguars and recorded an 87.1% conversion rate while making 16 out of 23 attempts beyond 50 yards in his career, but I am clearly not an NFL general manager so let’s figure it out based on the two kickers added to the roster Wednesday.
Chase McLaughlin went undrafted out of Illinois in 2019 where he was quickly picked up by the Colts following season ending knee surgery to Colts and Patriots legend Adam Vinatieri. McLaughlin would quickly make a positive impact as he made 5 of 6 kicks and had a perfect rating on his 11 attempted extra-point tries. McLaughlin has struggled to find a permanent home following his four-game stretch with The Colts, but has found success on the teams he used his boot for. His career kicking percentage is 75.5% while having a 97.1% rating in terms of extra-points.
A massive liability for Indy with Rodrigo Blankenship was his inability to kick any ball beyond 50 yards having been 1 of 4 in his career with the long being 53.
The 26-year-old Cypress, Texas native is 8 for 9 in his career from 50+ making his 57-yard long last season as a part of the Cleveland Browns organization. Reliability, not a liability if you ask me.
The other Blankenship issue that seemed like the driving force of his release was his inability to be productive in the kickoff game having kicked two balls out of bounds resulting in the Texans starting at the 35-yard line, one in the fourth quarter and other in the overtime period. This, unfortunately for Blankenship, was not his job previously in his Colts career, but with Rigoberto Sanchez tearing his Achilles late in training camp Ballard and special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone had no other choice than to pin that responsibility on “Hot Rod.”
Luckily for Chase McLaughlin, this won't be an issue, having kicked off 90 times in his career, similar to our next candidate Lucas Havrisik.
Havrisik, the 22-year-old Riverside, California native, played five seasons for the Arizona Wildcats of the NCAA PAC-12 resulting in a career conversion rate of 64.15% attempting field goals, and a 93.6% extra-point execution rate. More importantly, Havrisik is the Arizona football record holder having hit the school-long, 57-yarder twice.
The leg-up that Havrisik holds over McLaughlin is his experience with kicking off, having done so 302 times according to the Arizona Wildcats athletics page.
Another interesting piece about Havrisik is the Twitter video shown below:
Havrisik is also familiar with the Colts and the Grand Park facility where the Colts hold training camp and outside practices during the season located in Westfield, Indiana, as he received an invite to camp back in May, but ultimately lost the spot to Blankenship.
The Pick: Chase McLaughlin
As much as I love the ceiling that Havrisik holds, I just believe his floor is too low based on the 64% rate in college. My worry with Havrisik is that I could be writing the same column in two weeks following his release, and I would rather do research on Matt Ryan touchdowns or why Kwitty Paye will be a Pro Bowler. With that being said I think Chase McLaughlin is a solid and reliable NFL kicker and equally importantly a serviceable kick-off man.