. . . and Andersen makes Falcons sure-footed

January 30, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

MIAMI -- Two years ago, Atlanta's Morten Andersen missed a chip-shot field-goal attempt that wound up devastating the Denver Broncos.

Andersen's miss against Jacksonville in the season finale sent the Jaguars into the playoffs.

The Jaguars then went to Denver and knocked the Broncos out of the playoffs.

The Broncos, though, can't count on Andersen missing another one in Super Bowl XXXIII.

He said that miss made sure he no longer took anything for granted and he's still one of the best kickers in the game.

The Broncos don't want the game to be close enough to be decided on an Andersen field goal.

The Minnesota Vikings learned how dangerous that can be two weeks ago in the NFC title game when a Gary Anderson miss kept the Falcons in the game and Andersen eventually won it with a field goal in overtime. Both kicks were from 38 yards out.

The Falcons couldn't ask for a better kicker in a big game.

For years, Anderson was the best part of the New Orleans offense before the Falcons signed him as a free agent after the 1994 season.

Andersen, who has a $5,000 custom-made kicking shoe, is virtually flawless in the playoffs.

Although the one against Minnesota was his first game-winner in seven playoff games, he's made 11 straight playoff field-goal attempts and 14 of 16 overall.

He also holds seven NFL kicking records, including most 50-yard field goals (35), most game-winning kicks (25) and most 100-point seasons (12).

Andersen gives the team an ace on special teams, but the Falcons have other strengths.

Punter Dan Strzyinski is noted for booming punts that are difficult to return.

He forced opposing kick returners to fair catch 29 of his punts. Only Ken Walter of Carolina had more -- 36.

That's one of the reasons the punt-coverage team gave up only 5.6 yards a return.

That was second in the league to Carolina's 4.9.

The return game is in the hands of Tim Dwight, who has a reckless demeanor.

He'll return kickoffs from deep in the end zone and he'll catch punts on the dead run. His willingness to catch punts in a crowd even when he's going to get tackled immediately is the reason why his return average is only 8.5 yards compared to the Cowboys' Deion Sanders' 15.6-yard average.

On kickoff returns, he's second in the NFL with a 27-yard average. His best return was a 93-yarder for a touchdown.

There have been four kickoff returns for touchdowns in the Super Bowl. Dwight has a shot at the fifth.

Dwight said that if the Falcons win the toss, he'll take the opening kickoff out of the end zone. He doesn't want to start the game with a touchback.

It all adds up to a solid package on special teams for the Falcons.

Pub Date: 1/30/99

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