It's been an eventful and successful stretch run for Chandler Catanzaro as he ends his first season as the Jets' kicker.
Catman showed himself to be a potential master of the arcane art of the onside kick. Two weeks ago at New Orleans, he hit one onsider to the right at the end of the game that was wiped out because Saints coach Sean Payton called a timeout right before the kick. So Catanzaro took the same approach to the ball again but this time hit it to the left. Saints WR Mike Thomas nearly fumbled the ball to the Jets before it skittered out of bounds.
"With my soccer background, I have a bunch of different kicks I can use," Chandler told me this week. "It's just depending on what they give us and what we see on film."
Fast-forward to the Chargers game and Catanzaro executed one of the rare plays in the NFL — a successful onside kick on the opening kickoff.
"I work on that kick a lot," he said of his high-hopper that Marcus May leaped for and gobbled up before the visitors had a chance to know what hit them. "It actually wasn't my best kick. I was pretty nervous. Usually it hops a little higher for me and it goes 10 yards on the first bounce. But it worked out and Marcus did a great job protecting the sideline and making sure it didn't go out of bounds. the guys blocked it up for him. And it was just very good execution on their part.
"It was cool to have a successful one."
It was also noteworthy on multiple fronts. The kick was:
■ Catanzaro's first successful onside kick after "four or five attempts in my career."
■ The first successful first-quarter onside kick by a Jet since Bobby Howfield's 1971 kick at Shea Stadium vs. the Bills, recovered by rookie Chris Farasopoulos. Howfield's kick also is the Jets' first known successful onside kick in their history.
■ The first successful game-opening onside kick in the NFL since 2012, which was also at MetLife Stadium. But it was executed by the Eagles' Alex Henery against the Giants.
■ The first successful first-quarter onside kick in the NFL since 2015, executed by the Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski at Gillette Stadium against Washington after the Patriots had driven to a TD to open the game.
■ The third first-quarter onside kick drawn up by special teams coordinator Brant Boyer in the last four seasons. Boyer was the Colts' ST coach when Pat McAfee pulled off two opening-quarter onsiders in a three-game span.
Road Sweet RoadRegarding a kicker's more mundane pursuits, Catanzaro's also been very solid. Forty-three of his 62 kickoffs have gone for touchbacks, and he's hit his last 11 field goal tries, 23 of 27 overall and all 29 of his 33-yard extra points.
In fact, Catman heads to New England with a franchise record within grasp. He hasn't missed a placement on the road this season (8-for-8 FGs, 10-for-10 PATs), and if he remains perfect against the Patriots, he'll join Nick Lowery as the only kickers in Jets/Titans history to not miss a kick on the road. Lowery's perfect season was 1994, when he was 9-for-9 on FGs and 14-for-14 on those formerly chipshot extra points.
"I do my best to prepare each week and give myself the best chance to succeed," Catanzaro said. "I've kicked in a bunch of stadiums in my four-year career, and it's fun kicking on the road, fun to kind of pick different targets in the stadium or aim at a popcorn guy in the stands."
As far as not missing a kick away from MetLife this year with one game to go, he said, "It's probably just coincidence, to be honest. ... But it's cool, though."