Monday, January 02, 2006

DROPKICKED INTO HISTORY
Old Man Goes Old School in Patriots Regular Season Finale

By JIMMY GOLEN, AP Sports Writer


For 21 years, Doug Flutie's career has been defined by one play. Now the "Hail Flutie" has its historic bookend.

The 43-year-old Patriots backup converted the NFL's first successful drop kick since 1941, making an extra point in the fourth quarter of the Miami Dolphins' mostly meaningless 28-26 victory Sunday over New England.

"I think Doug deserves it," said usually dour Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who broke into a wide smile when his sprightly quarterback split the uprights off one bounce. "He is a guy that adds a lot to this game of football, has added a lot through his great career - running, passing and now kicking.

"He's got a skill and we got a chance to let him use it, and I am happy for him. First time since '41," said Belichick, a football historian who last month brought out a leather helmet in his media session. "It might be 60 years again, too."

According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame website, the league's last drop kick for points was on Dec. 21, 1941 - two weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor - when Ray (Scooter) McLean converted for the Chicago Bears to beat the New York Giants 37-9 in the NFL championship game.

"Flutie might have been there the last time it happened," placekicker Adam Vinatieri joked.
The ball was more round until 1934, making the bounce more predictable. And the rules were changed to require the kicker to be behind the line of scrimmage, relegating the drop kick to a riskier version of a place kick or extra point.

But when a broadcaster Chris Berman mentioned to Belichick that he'd seen Flutie drop kick, the coach called his quarterback into his office and asked if he could do it.

"I said, 'I could do it,"' Flutie said. "There's no real application for it, but I could do it."

A native of nearby Natick, Flutie won the Heisman Trophy at Boston College after connecting with Gerard Phelan on a 48-yard touchdown pass to beat Miami as time expired. That is his signature play - and one of the most memorable in college football history.

With the Patriots already happy with their playoff seeding, Tom Brady sat out most of the game so Matt Cassel, who's usually No. 3 behind Flutie, could get some snaps. He hit Tim Dwight for a nine-yard touchdown with 6:10 left, and Flutie came onto the field with the kicking unit.
"It sort of screwed me up," said Dolphins coach Nick Saban, who needed a timeout to get things straight. "I couldn't figure out what was going on. They had a quarterback in, four tight ends and a receiver and there was no kicker."

Flutie took his position for a regular shotgun snap, then retreated to the 12 yard-line to await the ball; he caught the ball, dropped it to the grass and kicked it off the short hop straight through the uprights. After getting a hug on the field by his teammates, Flutie ran off to embrace Belichick.

Even Saban appreciated the moment.

"I was kind of pleased to know that somebody can still drop kick," Saban said. "Man, when I was a kid we all practised that. Thought it was a lost art.
"But," he added, "you know Flutie showed his age on that one."

The 1984 Heisman winner went into the USFL and the NFL, but only achieved stardom in the Canadian Football League, where he was a three-time Grey Cup champion and six-time Most Outstanding Player. He returned to the NFL in 1998 and played three years with Buffalo and four with San Diego before returning to New England for a second stint with the Patriots.
He hasn't said he will retire, but the impression that this is his final season was reinforced by Belichick's post-game valedictory.

"It's possible, but I'm not going to rule anything out," Flutie said. "But if that ends up being my last play, it wouldn't be bad."

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He's gone from the Hail Mary to beat Miami to a dropkick in an NFL game. For some reason an old country song comes to mind..."Drop Kick me Jesus Thru the Goal Post of Life." At 43, Flutie seemingly is taking that literally.

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