When Tom Dempsey set the NFL record with a 63-yard field goal in 1970, it was stunning because it was 7 yards farther than the previous mark.
The only surprising thing about Sebastian Janikowski's record-tying 63-yard field goal against the Denver Broncos on Monday night is that it took so long.
It's a measure of Janikowski's power that he joined Dempsey and Jason Elam (1998) on a kick the Raider readily admits wasn't one of his best.
"I didn't hit it solid," Janikowski said Wednesday.
The AFC's special teams player of the week, Janikowski also had field goals of 21 and 37 yards and five touchbacks in a 23-20 road win over the Broncos.
Soon, he'll receive recognition of another kind in the form of a letter from Dempsey, whose 63-yard kick with two seconds left on Nov. 8, 1970, at Tulane Stadium gave the New Orleans Saints a 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions.
Before Dempsey's kick, the longest field goal was 56 yards by Bert Rechichar of the Baltimore Colts in 1953.
"He called me up and told me if someone breaks or ties your record, you congratulate them,' " Dempsey said by phone from his home in New Orleans. "I said, 'Yes sir, I will.' "
Dempsey, 64, was born with no toes on his right foot and no fingers on his right arm. He was a two-way lineman at Palomar College in the San Diego area who kicked in the old straight-on style in a modified shoe with a flattened toe.
He marvels that he still has
"I respect Janikowski," Dempsey said. "Every sports writer in the world wants me to say something about it being in Mile High, and it's not that. It's the ability of the kicker that makes the difference."
The altitude at Denver, however, was a huge factor on Janikowski's field goal.
"I thought he miss-hit it, he thought he miss-hit it," said punter Shane Lechler, his holder since both broke in as rookie draft picks in 2000.
Janikowski can remember two field goal attempts he hit with much more authority. On Dec. 27, 2009, Janikowski kicked a 61-yard field goal in Cleveland during a light snow. On Nov. 4, 2007, against Houston, a 64-yard field goal attempt in Oakland struck the right upright at least halfway up.
Given those kicks, as well as some of his field goals in the mid-50s that have cleared with plenty to spare, Janikowski concedes he's a little surprised it took him 174 games to tie the record.
"It was a matter of time, and I don't think he'll end at 63," Lechler said. "It will be 65, 66 at least."
If given perfect circumstances in Denver, Janikowski sees 74 or 75 yards as his top end.
Field position and time on the clock would play roles. A miss from a kick that distance gives the opponent prime field position near midfield. Dempsey's 63-yard field goal ended the game, and Elam's 63-yarder at Mile High against Jacksonville came at the end of a half.
"It has to be the right circumstance in the game situation, at the end of the half or the game," long-snapper Jon Condo said. "You've got to look at the risk. If you miss it, the team's getting the ball right around midfield, and it's not good for the defense."
For example, Janikowski's miss from 64 yards against Houston with 1:15 left in the half put the Texans in position for a short drive and a 40-yard field goal as the half ended.
Still, with time running down, Janikowski's presence can be intimidating.
"When they get to the 50, you start getting nervous," Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey said by conference call.
After Janikowski's strong preseason, which included two 57-yard field goals in each direction in Oakland off the infield dirt, the Raiders hope he is poised for his best season.
His youthful days of well-publicized carousing well behind him, Janikowski, 33, is married, a solid 258 pounds and in the best shape of his life.
"I know that I've been making long field goals, and we're going to try long field goals," Janikowski said.
Here's the kicker ...
The longest field goals converted by the Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski:
63 yards Sept. 12, 2011, at Denver
61 yards Dec. 27, 2009, at Cleveland
59 yards Dec. 26, 2010, vs. Indianapolis
57 yards Oct. 19, 2008, vs. N.Y. Jets
56 yards Sept. 14, 2008, at Kansas City
55 yards Nov. 26, 2006, vs. Denver
55 yards Nov. 2, 2003, vs. Detroit
Janikowski also has made seven field goals from 54 yards, four from 52 and three from 51