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Dustin Hopkins continues stellar year by making game-winning kick

December 17, 2018

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Dustin Hopkins has made game-winning kicks before. He’s missed some, too.

When the Washington Redskins tied with Cincinnati in 2016, Hopkins missed a would-be game-winner late in overtime. This year, he had the chance to make a field goal in the final seconds for Washington to beat the Texans. That one was short, though it must be noted that he was attempting a 63-yarder.

Nevertheless, the veteran kicker did not line up for Sunday’s win-clinching field goal against the Jaguars feeling like the game was on his shoulders.

“That thought never crossed my mind,” he said.

Hopkins, who received a contract extension last spring, added Sunday’s game-winner to his stellar 2018 campaign. In a season when veteran kickers are fighting the yips like never before sometimes missing four kicks in a single game Hopkins has remained a good bet for Washington.

To date, he has gone 23-for-26 on field goals, and one of those misses was the improbable 63-yarder that used to be the NFL record distance till recently. Hopkins has also nailed all but one of his extra point attempts.

Hopkins recalled several times when he made a go-ahead kick with perhaps a minute or 45 seconds left in the game. “I think this is the first time it was like kick, game over,” he told The Washington Times.

But he was probably only counting his NFL career, not college.

Hopkins was a fantastic kicker at Florida State, and his most famous play there was a 55-yard field goal as time expired that delivered the Seminoles a 16-13 win over Clemson in 2010. Coincidentally, 16-13 was also the score Sunday, when his 36-yarder floated toward the left upright but was really never in doubt.

Hopkins said kicking on the final play of the game doesn’t amp up the pressure on the contrary, he can relax once he’s done his part.

“After you hit it you don’t have to worry about something happening after,” Hopkins said. “It’s just like it’s done. They don’t have a shot now, it’s done.”

Hopkins and punter/holder Tress Way are very close with each other and with long snapper Nick Sundberg, but on Friday Sundberg was placed on injured reserve as he treats herniated and bulging discs in his lower back. The Redskins signed a replacement, Andrew East, late Friday.

It was East’s first regular season NFL game, and he had to make a snap for a field goal attempt to win the game. How’s that for a high-pressure situation?

On Friday, “we got a quick eight to 10 balls with him in the bubble,” Hopkins said of East. “Then flew here Saturday and got some pregame with him, and I trusted that. We’re communicating with each other, and he was asking what could I do to make this as close to normal as possible. He did a great job in making that happen, first of all, stepping in. ... To hone everything in that moment, he did an awesome job.”

Hopkins made all his kicks Sunday three field goals and an extra point, for a total of 10 points. Thanks in part to his efforts, and the offense and defense finally getting something going again, the Redskins snapped their four-game winning streak and the playoff hunt is back on.

“It’s going to be a fun flight home, afternoon and evening,” Hopkins said, “and then we have to concentrate next on Tennessee and get something going.”

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