Lawrence Tynes stood exactly seven yards away from the ball. The ball was on the 33 yard line. The sunlight had already faded in the University of Phoenix Stadium and the lights had been on for sometime now. The roar was a deafening din, but Tynes heard nothing. Sweat trickled down his forehead from his hair which was matted wet and into his left eye. The Giants were out of time outs and the field clock showed he had exactly 16 seconds to get the kick off. He could not take off his helmet and wipe his eyes. He would have to kick this one partially blind.
Eight yards away most of the Patriots were growling or yelling his name. Tynes looked up for just a brief moment and saw the safety jumping up and waving and trying to distract him. The scoreboard showed Patriots 35 Giants 33.
14 Seconds to go.
The Giants offensive line set down and Tynes called a few numbers. The long snapper looked at him between his legs while the holder barked out the signals. The ball would be snapped on three, so that the Patriots would have two chances to jump off sides and move the ball closer. Right now the field goal was exactly fifty yards. Tynes had been making them from 55 in practice without a problem, but that was four hours ago. Since then Tynes had a 35 yarder blocked and he had missed two others from 40 and 45. When the field goal was blocked in the first quarter a Patriots lineman had taken a shot at him during the mad scramble for the ball. Tynes had fallen and twisted his knee. The knee swelled up to the size of a grapefruit and at halftime he had the trainer give him shot. Right now his leg was numb. He could run on it and he could kick with it, he just couldn’t feel it.
On the sidelines during the last time out Coughlin hadn’t said much.
“Fifty yards” Coughlin had said.
“Bout that” Tynes replied.
The coach nodded and Tynes trotted out on to the field. Nothing more needed to be said. History and the chance to pull off perhaps the greatest upset in the history of the National Football league hung on Tynes’ numb leg.
The long snapper tensed up as the second request for the ball came. Out of the corner of his eye, Tynes saw his holder glance at him. Tynes gave him a quick wink.
8 seconds to go.
The ball came perhaps a tenth of a second late and a little higher than the holder wanted. It wasn’t much, but usually it would be enough to throw off his timing just enough to hook the ball right.
But Tynes knew there was pressure in this snap so he had waited perhaps an additional half second before starting his windup. It was just enough time to give the holder a chance to catch the ball and adjust.
Tynes saw the ball spin so that the laces were away from his foot. The ball was placed down, and perhaps ten thousand lights from camera flashes went off in the stands in front of Tynes. Tynes saw none of this because his head was down and he was looking at the ball. Like a golfer, it was important he keep his head down through the swing.
There was the usual pile up of humanity in front of him, but from his left Tynes saw that the Patriots had overloaded the line at the last moment. A safety had broken free and was streaking towards Tynes, his hands held out in front of him like Superman.
7 seconds left in the game.
Tynes went through his windup. He planted his foot and felt a sharp pain shoot through his leg. The pain killer was wearing off. His foot slipped as he winced, but not much, and he thought that his plant was good.
The safety was getting close. Tynes thought that he might just be able to tip the ball and that wouldn’t be good, so he hurried his kick just a bit quicker than normal.
A small breeze drifted in from behind the kicker. Despite the desert atmosphere, the breeze was cool as the sun had set. Tynes foot made good contact with the ball and Tynes reminded himself not to put everything he had into the kick. His leg was strong and he didn’t need to over kick the ball otherwise the kick would pull to the left.
The ball went up on the slightly lower trajectory that Tynes had planned. He needed a lower trajectory to get the distance to make the 50 yarder .
The safety was in air now with his arms outstretched. Tynes couldn’t be sure, but he thought he saw the safety’s right index finger make contact with the ball.
The ball started its end over end spin and Tynes noticed that it was spinning good. The safety hadn’t affected the kick. Now the only question was whether he had the distance.
The ball spun into the dark night while thousands of flashes from cameras continued to light up the night.
Tynes never saw the other safety who came in from the right side. The safety was blocked by a Giants offensive lineman, but the block forced the safety into Tynes. The safety hit Tynes- but it was a legal hit- and Tynes was hit just after he put his foot on the ground. The impact spun him around and before he hit the ground he noticed Eli Manning sitting on the ground with his helmet off and his head between his hands. Several Giants were holding hands, while the coaches had grouped together. Coughlin was standing as he always did with his hands on his hips.
The ball continued spinning but Tynes couldn’t see it. He was on the ground.
The crowd was roaring but there was no way for Tynes to know what that meant. Half the crowd was for the Giants and the other half for the Patriots. Either way about 35 thousand people would be cheering.
Some dirt had flown up into his helmet and stuck to the sweat on his face. Tynes was face down in the dirt when he felt the first hand on his back. In a second or so he would know either way just how his life had changed.