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‘It looks like we found our guy for a long time’: Former Utah Utes kicker Matt Gay brings stability to Los Angeles Rams offense

Los Angeles Rams kicker Matt Gay (1) boots a field goal as Johnny Hekker (6) holds during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren, Associated Press

Former University of Utah kicker Matt Gay has become a key player for the Los Angeles Rams since the team signed him on Nov. 17.

Gay, who was previously on the Indianapolis Colts practice squad, has given the Rams much needed stability at one of the most important positions in the game. Prior to signing Gay, Los Angeles has already been through two kickers this season. Rookie Sam Sloman was cut after missing three of his 26 extra points and three of his 13 field goal attempts in seven games. His replacement, Kai Forbath, was injured during the Nov. 15 game against the Seahawks.

Matt Gay, to the rescue.

In his first action in an NFL game for the first time since Dec. 2019, Gay went 2-for-3 on field goal attempts, making a 38-yarder and a 40-yarder — the latter put the Rams up by three with two minutes left in the fourth quarter — and was a perfect 3-for-3 on extra points against his former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, on Nov. 23.

In his seven games played for the Rams this year, Gay has made 14 of his 16 attempted field goals and is a perfect 16-for-16 on extra points. One of his two missed field goals came in his first NFL game in nearly a year and the second came against Arizona on Dec. 12. Besides those two misses, Gay has been exactly what Los Angeles has needed at the kicker position. He has also handled kickoff duties for the Rams, averaging 63.8 yards per kickoff. Besides playing the hero in the win against his former team, Gay has made a 50-yard field goal and is 6-for-7 in kicks 40-to-49 yards.

In his two years at Utah, Gay was the next in a line of excellent kickers in recent years. Gay brought the comfort and stability of having a reliable kicker, making 30-of-34 field goals in his first season and 26-of-31 field goals in his second season. He made long kicks of 56 and 55 yards, respectively, in his two years as a Ute. In 2017, Gay won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best placekicker, and was a second-team All-American in 2018. Gay ranks as one of the best kickers ever to play at Utah, ranking third all-time with 56 made field goals. He also set the record for most 50-plus-yard field goals, with eight.

Following his graduation from Utah, Gay was drafted in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL draft by Tampa Bay. In his rookie season, Gay made 27 of his 35 attempted field goals and made 43 of his 48 attempted extra points. In the Buccaneers’ last game of the season against the Atlanta Falcons, Gay missed all three of his field goal attempts — from 49 yards, 44 yards and 34 yards — in a game the Buccaneers lost by just six points, and was cut.

Gay spent time on the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad in 2020, but never kicked in a game before being signed by the Rams.

Gay proved his value in Los Angeles’ 30-20 Wild Card win over the Seattle Seahawks, making three field goals and three extra points — accounting for 12 of the Rams’ 30 points. In the win over the Seahawks, Rams quarterback Jared Goff pushed through pain in his thumb. Though Goff got the job done, his injury underscored just how important Gay’s role for the Rams is. Los Angeles scored just two offensive touchdowns, with Gay netting the Rams points on three drives.

With Goff set to battle through his thumb injury, Gay could have an increased role in Los Angeles’s offense when the Rams play the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round today at 2:35 p.m. MST on FOX.

Rams coach Sean McVay thinks that Gay has a long future with the Rams.

“I’ll tell you what, it’s been huge. Man, he’s Mr. Automatic, as of late,” McVay said, per the Los Angeles Times. “I think that’s something that you don’t take for granted. He’s done a great job and it looks like we found our guy for a long time, really for the future.”

Gay is ready for another playoff game — one that could possibly come down to his leg.

“I feel it’s just a mentality,” Gay said. “It’s something you have to brace your mind for before you go up there. Just trusting yourself, treating it like you would any other game and then when you get up there, just make the adjustments.”