<
>

Reliable Connor Barth kick-starts Buccaneers' kicking game

Connor Barth's consistency has brought stability to the Bucs' special teams. Brian Blanco/AP

TAMPA, Fla. -- Connor Barth has turned an area of weakness into one of strength. After the kicking game burned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers early, he's the reason for the welcome stability.

Making all but one of 14 field-goal tries will do that.

"We always preach it: 'Do your job,'" Barth said Wednesday. "So I'm just trying, when I'm called upon, to try to make them. Obviously, you'd always like to be 100 percent, so I'd like to have that one [miss] back. But I'm a human sometimes."

The Bucs will take what Barth has offered after they suffered through Kyle Brindza's woes through the first four games. The rookie made just six of 12 field goal tries and six of eight extra points before being cut on Oct. 5.

Barth has been a big improvement, making all eight extra points in addition to his sterling field-goal conversion rate. He has answered concerns about his ability to produce touchbacks by being solid in that area as well, allowing just two returns in a loss to the New York Giants last Sunday.

"There's always pressure because it's the NFL," Barth said. "But at the end of the day, just take it one kick at a time. Honestly, I was feeling more pressure about kicking off, because that has been my big negative. And hopefully, I've kind of silenced the critics on that one. I just want to show that I can do that. It just makes me a more well-rounded player."

Barth said he worked on a different "swing path" for kickoffs in the offseason with Dan Orner, a kicking coach in Charlotte. He said he has also received help from Bucs special teams coordinator Kevin O'Dea.

The Bucs needed Barth's field-goal consistency Sunday against the Giants as they struggled in the red zone. He made tries of 21, 25, 28 and 53 yards. His only miss came on a 43-yard attempt in the second quarter that sailed wide right.

"As a kicker, you always want to kick a ton of field goals," Barth said. "I've always been a team-guy first, and I'm always hoping we're going to score [touchdowns], because it's obviously going to help us win games. At the end of the day, whatever you're asked to do, I try to do it, whether it's an extra point or a short field goal or a long field goal."

He has so far. For Barth, the "do your job" directive has gone quite well.