Notebook: Zuerlein Quietly Putting Together Stellar 2013

Posted Dec 25, 2013

For Greg Zuerlein, there isn’t much to explain when breaking down the key to what has been one of the most accurate seasons by a Rams kicker in team history.

Zuerlein, who garnered the moniker ‘Legatron’ during a rookie season that saw him establish a Rams franchise record by kicking seven field goals of 50 or more yards last year, has shown his precision is as advanced as his leg strength in his second NFL season.

Zuerlein has somewhat quietly assembled the third-most accurate season by a St. Louis Rams kicker, with his 92 percent conversion rate trailing only Wilkins’ 2000 and 2003 seasons. Entering the season finale on Sunday, Zuerlein has already passed Rams all-time points leader Jeff Wilkins in career field goal percentage, with a career conversion rate of 82.8 percent.

From a preparation standpoint, there isn’t much to point to when assessing the difference a year has made for Zuerlein.

“Just coming to work every day and practicing,” Zuerlein said. “Last year, I did the same thing, but just a little more mature and refining my craft every day.”

Zuerlein’s rookie season became often defined by his ability to connect from long range, as he attempted 13 field goals from beyond 50 yards. Six of his eight misses came from that distance, as Zuerlein has proven to be a near-certainty from inside 50 yards in each of his two seasons.

“I know a lot of times when you kick long field goals, you can get caught thinking you need to kick the ball farther and it can mess up your form a bit, but I try to maintain the same approach,” Zuerlein said. “You’re going to hit your PATs the same way you hit your 50 yarders.

Though that philosophy has been held by many placekickers, Zuerlein has made it a reality more often than any kicker in team history, including Wilkins, who kicked his way to a Pro Bowl and the team’s all-time scoring record in his 11 seasons in St. Louis.

“Hopefully I can continue to make all my kicks, and if that happens, great,” Zuerlein said. “Jeff was a great kicker and they’ve had a lot of great kickers here.”

With the franchise accuracy mark already eclipsed, consider Zuerlein the next in the lineage.

News and notes:

-The Rams held a brief practice Wednesday, their first in preparation for their season finale against the Seattle Seahawks. This will be the third time in the last four seasons the Rams will conclude the regular season in Seattle.

-A win Sunday would mark the Rams’ first in Seattle since the team’s 2004 Wild Card playoff win over the Seahawks.

-QB Kellen Clemens begins Sunday just 13 passing yards shy of his career high of 1,529, established in 2007 as a member of the New York Jets. He also needs 10 completions to surpass his career-best of 130, also set in 2007.

-RB Zac Stacy enters Sunday just 46 yards shy of becoming the Rams’ third rookie to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in a season. Only Eric Dickerson (1,808 yards in 1983) and Jerome Bettis (1,429 yards in 1993) have achieve the feat previously.