Maybe Harrison Butker’s right leg was just tired.
After kicking five field goals, and booting kickoffs after all Chiefs scores Sunday, Butker came up short on a 46-yarder into a cold breeze in the fourth quarter on Sunday.
By then, the Chiefs had salted away a 29-13 triumph over the Miami Dolphins that secured a second consecutive AFC West title, a first for the organization. The kick would have been icing.
But it didn’t diminish the day or the personal accomplishment for Butker. The rookie, who was not obtained until after the third game this season, has gone on to one of the greatest seasons by a kicker in franchise history.
His five field goals Sunday, including a 49-yarder, pushed Butker’s season total to 36 and gave him two more than the previous record set by Nick Lowery in 1990.
That wasn’t all. Butker has made at least one field goal in all 12 games that he’s appeared, and that matches Lawrence Tynes’ 2005 mark for consecutive games with a field goal.
One more regular-season game remains, at Denver on Sunday, for Butker to own that mark outright.
His leg strength and accuracy have played a major role in the Chiefs’ three-game winning streak that halted a skid of six losses in seven games and returned them to the division championship path.
The Chiefs defeated the Raiders and Chargers before the Dolphins, and in those three games, Butker has 12 combined field goals. Add the points after touchdown and he has accounted for more than half — 43 — of the Chiefs’ 85 points in the streak.
“I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities,” Butker said. “It’s like a kicker’s dream to get as many field goals as I’ve gotten.”
Or an offensive coordinator’s frustration. Sometimes the appearance of Butker has meant the Chiefs have bogged down on offense. Red-zone efficiency was poor on Sunday, with two touchdowns in seven trips inside the 20. That didn’t help a season-long red-zone touchdown rating of 45 percent, which ranked 28th entering the Dolphins game.
But at least the Chiefs know points have been all but a certainty once they’ve reached the 35 or so because of Butker.
Earlier this season, Butker set the team record for consecutive makes. After missing his first attempt in a Chiefs uniform, he was true on his next 23.
Against the Dolphins, fortune smiled on Butker. His final make went off the left upright.
“That was definitely the luckiest kick of my career,” Butker said. “I hit it and it was left. The contact wasn’t great. I knew the wind was blowing left to right, so I knew it had a chance. It saw I hit the post and the referee’s hands go up. I was very fortunate that kick went in.”
Butker said the entire kicking operation should take a bow, from snapper James Winchester to holder Dustin Colquitt to a line that hasn’t allowed a kick to be blocked.
It’s been a near perfect season for the kicker who was drafted out of Georgia Tech by the Carolina Panthers earlier this year, lost the starting competition to incumbent Graham Gano and was signed off the practice squad by the Chiefs when starter Cairo Santos aggravated a groin injury in the third week.
The Chiefs had landed the player whose Twitter handle is @Buttkicker7.
Only the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein and the 49ers Robbie Gould have booted more field goals this season than Butker, who was chosen AFC special teams player of the month for October. He also was picked as a Pro Bowl alternate.
One regular-season game remains before Butker will confront the biggest stage of his young career. The Chiefs have clinched a playoff spot and the No. 4 seed, meaning they’ll play host to a Wild Card round game on Jan. 6 or 7.
So far, nothing has fazed him.
“I’ve put in a lot of work for this moment,” Butker said. “I’m glad it’s coming together.”