The New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos released their final injury reports before tomorrow’s game, and while the Patriots have 13 players listed as questionable, it’s Denver’s declaration of who’s out that caught my eye. No, it’s not wide receiver Eric Decker that I’m referring to, but long snapper Lonie Paxton. You may recall Paxton from his time in New England, playing for all three Super Bowl championship teams and making a snow angel at the end of the Tuck Rule Game. Lonie is missing the game due to personal reasons (Sidenote: New England hopes everything’s OK with Lonie and his family), and his absence could have a significant impact on the game.
But he’s just a long snapper? Don’t say that to the New York Giants.
In 2003, the Giants were set for a game-winning 41-yard field goal against the 49ers in the playoffs. Trey Junkin, who the team had just signed a week before the game (sound familiar), was the long snapper. He snapped the ball into the ground with 6 seconds left on the clock, and the 49ers won the game 39-38. That’s the power of a long snapper, and often overlooked and under-appreciated position. They’re never noticed until a bad snap occurs, resulting in a big play.
Long snappers are in on punts, extra points, and field goals. A botched snap could result in 7 points the other way or a huge change in momentum. While a missed extra point can’t be returned (remember Sergio Brown?), the loss of a point in a close game could result in winning or losing. The Patriots’ defense are stingy in the red zone when it comes to giving up touchdowns, and the Broncos could be settling for a few field goals. Anything that’s less than a smooth snapper-to-holder operation could help put the Patriots into the AFC Championship game.
Not convinced? Talk to me again if there’s a botched snap tomorrow.