Four years ago, when Rob Bironas was 25, he landed a placekicking job with the Charleston Swamp Foxes of af2, the second-tier indoor football league. A former kicker at Auburn and Georgia Southern, he gave himself three years to get an NFL job or he'd move on to something—he didn't know what—in the real world. That year he made the regular af2 wage ($200 a week, plus a $50 bonus for each victory) and waited tables at a seafood joint on the South Carolina shore. "Tips were important," Bironas said on Sunday. "Really important."
At 26 he was a Carolina Cobra, at 27 a New York Dragon. But after failed trials with the Packers, Buccaneers and Steelers, he finally landed an NFL job with the Titans in August 2005, less than six months before his self-imposed deadline. Tennessee is glad it gave Bironas (2, right) the shot. Last December he became an instant hero when he booted a 60-yard buzzer-beater to defeat the division-rival Colts. And, stunningly, on Sunday he set two NFL kicking records—most field goals (eight) and placekicking points (26) in a game—and converted a 29-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Titans a 38--36 win and a 4--2 record. For the day, Bironas was a perfect 8 for 8, hitting from 52, 25, 21, 30, 28, 43 and 29 yards twice. Never before in the league's 88-year history had a kicker been so prolific. "You put it like that, it's crazy," Bironas said. "But the reality of the situation is, my team kept putting me in position to kick the kicks I could make, and I put them through."
In fact Bironas has been an integral part of the Titans' modest success over the past two seasons. Not only is he accurate (81.3% since joining Tennessee), but also his kickoffs go deep: 27 touchbacks in 38 career games, well above the league average. For a team with wild-card hopes, one that plays most every opponent close, Bironas's performance in the clutch could be the difference between playing in January and watching from home.
DAVID J. PHILLIP/AP (BIRONAS)