Connor Barth is proving his worth to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The fifth-year kicker arguably has been the team's most dependable performer during a 1-3 start, converting all nine of his field goal attempts to extend the longest current streak in the NFL to a franchise-record 25 straight dating to October of last season.
Barth is also 7 for 7 on extra points through four games, keeping him perfect in 102 career tries — consistency that shows why the Bucs used their franchise tag to avoid losing the 26-year-old to free agency last winter, then subsequently rewarded him with a four-year, $13.2 million contract.
Coaches and teammates are astounded by his accuracy, including three kicks of 50-plus yards already this season.
"I've never been around a guy like him. We're blessed as an organization to have him," said Schiano, who watched Barth kick field goals of 50, 57 and 47 yards during a 24-22 loss to Washington two weeks ago.
The 57-yarder was the longest of his career. The 47-yarder gave the Bucs a late lead that the defense couldn't hold in the final two minutes against Robert Griffin III.
"I've always said I don't have the strongest leg, but I've always prided myself on my leg swing and my consistency. From 50-55 and in, I usually feel confident I can make it every time," said Barth, a former North Carolina star whose younger brother, Casey, recently broke the Tar Heels' career record for field goals made.
Barth's last miss for the Bucs came on a 55-yard attempt against New Orleans last Oct. 16. The NFL record is held by Mike Vanderjagt, who made 42 in a row for Indianapolis from 2002-04.
The Bucs kicker, second in the NFL with a 92.9 field goal percentage (26-28) a year ago, said Vanderjagt's mark is the farthest thing from his mind.
"That's a long way away. My goal is to take it one kick at a time," said Barth, who's in his fourth season with Tampa Bay after beginning his career with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008. "If I keep doing what I'm doing, you never know what might happen."
And while some kickers might be reluctant to talk about their success for fear of jinxing themselves, Barth welcomes conversation about the streak.
For the first time in his career, he's working with the same snapper (Andrew Economos) and holder (Michael Koenen) two straight years and Barth also gives Tampa Bay's offensive line its due, too, for providing excellent protection.
"I've never been superstitious. ... You might think about it during the week, but when you go out there to line up you don't think about making another one to extend the streak, you try to go out there — and like coach always says — do your job," said Barth, who has taken up yoga in the offseason and also attributes part of his success to that.
"If you can extend your range of motion with the same kind of leg speed, it's going to go that much farther," the kicker added. " It's pretty simple physics."
Three years ago against Miami, Barth became only the fourth kicker in NFL history to make three field goals or more in a single game. Last December, he joined Morten Andersen and Rob Bironas as the only kickers to make four of 40-plus yards in a single half when he converted kicks of 50,47,46 and 44 yards against Carolina.
It hasn't taken Schiano long to develop a deep appreciation for Barth's range.
In addition to his two long field goals against Washington, Barth booted a 52-yarder against the New York Giants last month.
"It's a weapon, make no mistake about it," Schiano said. "Certainly we want to score by sixes, not threes. But when you don't score by sixes, it's nice to get a three."
Barth said the first-year coach often talks to him in an effort to rattle the kicker during practice, however Schiano knows better to suggest any changes.
"I'm not an expert on kicking. I know enough to be dangerous," Schiano said. "But I know enough to stay away from him and let him do it the way he's doing it."
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