As fans of AMC’s adrenaline packed Breaking Bad will attest, the show’s success was all in the chemistry. From the actors, to the writing, to the direction, all aspects came together to paint an enthralling and unpredictable television series. Although this series ended last week, Raider fans will be glued to the television tonight to witness a current drama unfolding before their eyes.
Sebastian Janikowski, the Oakland Raiders’ kicker and Raider Nation fan favorite, the Breaking Bad adage couldn’t be more poignant for his 2013 season. Just as Walter White was a master at cooking methamphetamine for 5 seasons, Janikowksi has been automatic and incredible when kicking the pigskin. For years, especially in the last three, Janikowski has split the uprights constantly for the Silver and Black, becoming a main force for the offense and puncturing opponents’ hearts with sure fire 20 yard chips or booming kicks that make 50 yards look like child’s play. However this year, Janikowski’s current batch is anything but pure.
In just four games into this young 2013 NFL season, Janikowski has missed three field goals including one inside the Colts’ dome in week one. His third miss, and hopefully last of the year, was a 52 yard attempt that came during last weekend’s home loss to the Washington Redskins. While that kick was from distance and in the dirt, many NFL fans would brush that off as a victim of circumstance. Not the Raider Nation. Just as we expect our fans to be the most passionate and unique, we expect exceptional quality from our number 11. And when you consider that our offense struggles to move the ball and put up six, especially last week when the lackadaisical Matt Flynn was throwing the ball, Janikowski’s influence on the scoreboard becomes even more crucial.
This year began as a mixed bag for Janikowski. Although he signed a staggering 5-year, $19 million contract extension making him a Raider for life, he was to perform without the excellent Shane Lechler. Lechler, who left the Raiders this off-season for to the Houston Texans, was an extraordinary punter for the Silver and Black and forged a great relationship with Janikowski. That tandem spoke highly of the teams special teams and now it’s most nuanced, often overlooked trait, is being exposed so far this season. Lecher held Janikowski’s place kicks for thirteen loyal seasons, creating a telepathic bond of timing and efficiency. Now with new punter Marquette King, Janikowski’s kicks have gone wide of the posts, and that new bond is noticeably imperfect.
King and Janikowski are working diligently in practice to improve their timing and the comfort level between them. Fans should not doubt Janikowski’s kicking prowess, because when you when you switch from working with an all pro for over a decade, there is going to be some rust.
Tonight against the San Diego Chargers, Janikowski will have the best opportunity, under the lights and on national television, to remind their AFC rivals that the Polish Powder Keg can still split the uprights from any point on the field. With Terrelle Pryor back in the lineup, the Raiders will immediately be more competitive than last week and this game could come down to three points, a kick, and a moment of chemistry.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter @jermg11