BEFORE HIS 58-yard attempt banged off the left upright at the end of the first half of Sunday's game at Tampa, Alex Henery hadn't missed a field goal since Sept. 9. He made 22 in a row, an Eagles record - five more than the old record set by the man he replaced, David Akers.
After walking on at Nebraska, Henery became the most accurate kicker in the history of college football. Before he missed two attempts on Sunday, Henery also was the most accurate kicker in the history of the NFL. His 46 field goals in his first 50 NFL attempts were the most in league history. He is now 47-for-53 (88.7 percent) in his career and second to Dallas' Dan Bailey (57-for-64, 89.1 percent).
The Eagles raised some eyebrows when they selected Henery in the fourth round in 2011, effectively ensuring the departure of the popular Akers, who had spent 13 seasons with the club. It was the highest pick the team had utilized on a kicker since they selected Tony Franklin in the third round in 1979 and the first kicker they had drafted in any round since Paul McFadden in 1984 (12th round).
In retrospect, the 2011 draft was a disaster. The whiffs on Danny Watkins and Jaiquawn Jarrett have crippled this team at two of its weakest positions.
But despite Sunday's misfires, the Henery pick looks like a good one - one of the few bright spots in an otherwise feeble crop of second-year players. In a season where poor play has been contagious among most of the team's units, Henery has been consistently impressive.
"It has been going good for me," Henery said. "I am in a good rhythm, hitting the ball well. I am happy with how it is going, kickingwise. It's a team sport, so we win and lose as a team. But when you're called on, you have to be ready to help the team out."
Describing Henery as mild-mannered wouldn't do him justice. As he neared the franchise mark for consecutive field goals, his attitude with regard to the record bordered on apathetic.
"It was something I knew I was approaching," he said. "But it wasn't something that I was really worried about. It's a cool honor, but I don't look at those things very much."
Henery's personality enables him to approach each kick in robotic fashion. With the type of streak he had amassed this season, it's easy to think that keeping it in mind would be a confidence booster. But not for Henery, who prefers to wipe any retention of prior kicks from his memory.
"I just go out there and it is the next kick," he says. "Not the last one or the last few."
That mindset is what all great kickers have. It is conducive to the proverbial short memory and ice-water-in-the-veins characteristics so often synonymous with the league's best.
No matter the circumstances - close game or blowout, preseason or Super Bowl - in Henery's mind, each swing of his leg is the same as the previous one.
"Kickers, what normally separates them is their mental game," says Eagles punter and placekick holder Mat McBriar, a 9-year NFL veteran.
"He has the physical tools, he has a strong leg," McBriar says of Henery. "But he has just been the same guy ever since I have come to know him in training camp. Every kick is the same to him; you wouldn't know if it means more or less to him. I like to call him like a flat-liner. It is a great thing to have."
Kickers and punters are uniquely fortunate, according to McBriar. Because their job never changes, they are able to separate themselves from all the moving parts typical of a football season. It is something that can prove useful when mired in a disappointing campaign like the one the Eagles are enduring.
Nick Foles was able to end the team's eight-game losing streak on Sunday. In a vacuum, had he not, Henery's two misses could have accounted for the difference in the game. But unlike the rest of the Eagles, it's been that type of season for Henery.