We all [should] know that I’m on a psychological kick lately, and that ties perfrectly into this post. I asked via Twitter what the bigger play of the day was in the NFL Playoffs:

Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks breaking 8 tackles and running 67 yards for a touchdown

– or –

Nick Folk kicking a 31 yard field goal to win the game for the Jets with 3 seconds left.

Here, you watch the clips, and then make a decision.

Marshawn Lynch’s amazing touchdown run:

Nick Folk’s game winning field goal with 3 seconds left (sorry it’s so crappy, it literally happened 20 minutes ago and was the first video up):

Now, if you didn’t watch the Jets/Colts game, you’ve lost the dramatics that took place prior to that kick, and it may appear that the dude just lined up and kicked a standard 31 yard field goal.

Compare that to Lynch’s monster run and you’d have to be crazy to think that a 31 yard field goal is more impressive than a 67 yard run through an entire team, right?  I’d beg to differ.

Lynch’s run was freaky, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think it’s anything above and beyond what he’s already trained for. An NFL running back trains to make those plays day in and day out. Every time he touches the ball, he expects he has the abilities to do that regardless of where his team is at on the field or what’s on the line. The limiting factor is, of course, whether or not that running back is skilled enough to actually pull it off. Lynch was. Obviously.

Now, in the context of his game, Seattle was already leading the game. His mentality was, get the first down, keep the clock running, don’t fumble. At no point in time was there any external pressure on him saying, “if you don’t run this exact play 67 yards for a touchdown, we’re going to lose.”

Let’s compare that to Mr. Folk’s seemingly easy 31 yard field goal.

With around 3 minutes left in the game, the Jets were only up by 1 point and being forced to punt back to the always dangerous Peyton Manning. Plenty of time for him to drive down and score a touchdown. The Colts committed a “running into the kicker” pentaly which resulted in a first down for the Jets. The Jets ran 3 more plays and ended up punting back to the Colts with 2:36 left.

Manning was able to move the Colts into field goal range and allow Adam Vinatieri a chance to kick a 50-yd field goal to go up by 2 points. Mr. Ice (I just made that up) knocked it through.

With 53 seconds left, the Jets took the kick-off and returned it to their own 46 yard line. Several decent plays later, and the story picks up where we saw our hero kicking the game winning field goal.

Physical or Mental?

It’s true that kickers do practice kicking daily. It’s true that teams will try to pipe in crowd noise during practice and do “sudden change/situational drills” to try simulate the stress that could be present in a game-winning situation such as that. But is that really the same?

In the end, it’s just practice, in front of your team. You get your ass chewed (or maybe not), and you move on to the next part of practice. This is a “do or die” game. Your offense has just done an incredible job of moving the ball down the field. Everyone at the stadium is watching. Millions and millions and millions of people around the world are watching on TV. Some guy is going to lose his life because of a bad bet in Vegas if you miss. Some other guy’s family is probably tied up waiting for the outcome. You’re kicking from the hash instead of straight on. How would you handle that pressure? Could you?

There’s no doubt in my mind that what Lynch did was a gifted and amazing run, but the stress on him to perform that run was non-existant. In fact, I would argue that as he broke through the initial tackles, his run actually be EUstressful for him. Whereas, Folk was under complete DIstress the entire time.

As I’ve tried pointing out in the past, performance is optimized in a eustress state. Training/performing in a distressed state should be done as minimally as possible.

And that, folks, is why Nick Folk gets my nod for more impressive play of the afternoon.

Don’t Miss Your Chance

I was stuck in Corporate America for 9 years. I was miserable.

Then I took control.

You can too, and it starts right here.