KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Harrison Butker is a serious kicker – may too serious, he admits – so there's an irony that the meticulous perfectionist sent a knuckleball through the uprights from 44 yards out in lifting the Chiefs to a 26-23 victory over the Minnesota Vikings Sunday.
“I know I hit some ground before I hit the ball, and usually if I hit ground, the ball still has end over end rotation,” Butker said. “It was kind of going crazy, but it was going straight so it’s just is it going to have the distance or not. Luckily it did.”
On a day when wide receiver Tyreek Hill caught six passes for 140 yards and running back Damien Williams rushed for 125, each scoring a touchdown, it was Butker who kept the Chiefs in the game until he put them over the top. Butker hit four field goals in all, connecting from 24, 45, 54 and 44 yards.
The 45-yard field goal late in the third quarter put the Chiefs ahead 20-16. A week ago in the 31-24 loss to Green Bay, Butker left a 50-yard field wide left under similar circumstances. When the Chiefs practiced indoors on Wednesday due to cold, wintry conditions, Butker went over to Arrowhead Stadium with Winchester and holder Dustin Colquitt to work on kicks from that exact position.
“That's why when I made the 45-yarder right hash, right to left wind, the same kick I missed last game, it was a right hash, left-to-right wind, so I was really pumped up I made that.”
Butker's final two field goals came with just 2:30 remaining in the game. Colquitt called it “unreal” watching Butker connect on both kicks in what he described as the windiest day he's seen on the field in 15 seasons at Arrowhead Stadium.
“For kicking, in general, it's hard to do that on days like today,” Reid said. “He stuck with it, kept his head down, hit two big kicks for us.”
Head coach Andy Reid tipped his hat to Butker for hitting two toughs kicks in unfavorable conditions for a kicker.
“That last one was as clutch as you can get,” Reid said.
Butker paced the sideline before the final kick. “I was jacked up,” after hitting the 54-yard field to tie the game. He paced the sideline, took a few deep breaths and kicked a couple of balls into the net trying to calm himself down.
“I think that's when I do the best is when I'm just kind of in my own zone,” Butker said.
The gam-winning kick, however, almost didn't get there. Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter hurdled over long snapper James Winchester and appeared to get a fingertip on the ball, sending it on an unorthodox trajectory.
“I thought I heard it blocked,” Butker said. “A lot of O-linemen said they thought they heard it get blocked, and I looked up and the ball wasn’t going end over end.”
After the kick sailed through the uprights, Butker sprinted toward the other end of the field. “I think that's just from my soccer background growing up,” Butker explained, “when guys scored goals they just sprint the other way.”
Halfway toward the other end of the field, Butker was greeted by an exuberant Patrick Mahomes. Knee injury or not, the quarterback raced on the field to celebrate with Butker.
“I saw Patrick and I wanted to embrace him, but I'm like, ‘No, he can’t get hurt.,” Butker said with a laugh.
Instead, wide receiver Tyreek Hill implored Butker to head toward the end zone and jump into the crowd. That was fun, Butker admitted.
“Just so happy for this team to get a big win,” he said “We’re moving forward with a lot of momentum.”