Kai Forbath has been good from 57 yards before.
But it was a long time ago, long before Forbath drilled a 57-yard attempt through the uprights against the Texans on Sunday, one of the few highlights in a disappointing performance for New Orleans.
Back in 2005, Forbath was a senior at Sherman Oaks High School in the Los Angeles area, already committed to UCLA and a weapon in his team’s televised showdown against Lake Balboa Birmingham. With his team trailing 9-7 at the end of the first half, Forbath blasted field goals of 42 and 57 yards in the final 22 seconds of the first half, according to the Los Angeles Times, and helping his team to the win.
Forbath’s kick against the Texans, coming at the end of the first half, felt a little bit like that first kick.
“A little different,” Forbath said. “The posts are wider, you’re kicking off a tee. That first one will always be tough to beat.”
Ten seasons after that first 57-yarder, the second of Forbath’s career is an indicator of how much he’s earned Sean Payton’s trust since taking over for Zach Hocker in the middle of the season. Forbath has been given only four field-goal attempts since joining the Saints — the lone miss came when Brian Orakpo blocked an offering that would have won the game against the Tennessee Titans — but he’s been reliable enough that Payton felt comfortable sending the veteran out for a 57-yard attempt with enough time left on the clock that Houston could have mounted a scoring drive if Forbath had missed.
“I didn’t feel like it was outside of his range,” Payton said on Sunday. “It was just a matter of whether you get a clean hit, and you just worry about trajectory when you’re kicking a longer kick like that.”
For Forbath, the kick represented the longest of his career by a wide margin.
In three seasons with Washington, Forbath was only asked to attempt kicks longer than 50 yards four times, and he made two.
“You see every year, some guys have no attempts of 50, some guys have 10,” Forbath said. “Every team is different in their situations they get into. There weren’t too many times in Washington where we got to a certain yard that we’d call for that kick. It’s just kind of luck, I guess.”
There was also a perception in Washington that Forbath didn’t have a very strong leg, at least on kickoffs. When Washington decided to cut him earlier this season, his leg strength was cited as one of the reasons.
But Payton’s already asked Forbath to attempt two kicks of 50 yards or more. Payton, who usually takes a little time to trust a kicker and isn’t afraid to make a move at the position, has been happy with the way Forbath has solified the position since the Saints signed the 28-year-old.
And after Forbath said he felt good from 57 on Sunday against Houston, Payton felt comfortable sending the veteran out there for the big blast. Forbath earned instant credibility with the Saints by blasting through a 50-yard game-winner to beat the Giants on his first field-goal attempt in New Orleans.
“I don’t want to have any doubt before, so I always tell myself before every kick that I made this kick in practice before, why not make it again?” Forbath said. “I was happy that he gave me a chance. Those are always fun opportunities to get to try.”
If Forbath can continue his play, the veteran could stabilize a Saints kicking situation that has often been in flux in recent years.
So far, so good.
“It’s been a pretty smooth transition here,” Forbath said.
All he’s got to do is keep coming up big in the clutch.