‘Calm and confident’ new Texans kicker Matt Ammendola nails game-winner against Bengals

The replacement for an injured Ka’imi Fairbairn made a 38-yard game-winning field goal, his first since high school

Houston Texans place kicker Matt Ammendola (16) kicks the game winning field goal during an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Melissa Tamez) (Melissa Tamez, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

CINCINNATI, Ohio – It didn’t matter to Matt Ammendola that he hadn’t kicked a field goal in an actual game in over a year.

And his lack of clutch experience at the NFL level wasn’t on his mind, either.

Signed off the street last Tuesday to the practice squad as the replacement for injured kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn, Ammendola nailed a 38-yard field goal as time expired Sunday to boost the Texans to a 30-27 last-second road victory.

The deciding kick marked his first game-winning field goal since his high school days at North Penn in Towamencin Township, Pennsylvania

“Exactly what you just said, calm and confident,” Ammendola told KPRC 2. “Sometimes, you’ve just got to be free out there. Whatever happens, happens, but it felt good to get it done.”

Ammendola was elevated Saturday to the 53-man roster as Fairbairn was placed on injured reserve with a strained quadriceps, meaning he’ll have to miss at least the next four weeks.

With just three days to practice with long snapper Jon Weeks and punter-holder Cameron Johnston, Ammendola made three field goals from 45, 22 and 38 yards and three extra points with zero misses.

One week ago when Fairbairn got hurt, emergency kicker Dare Ogunbowale, a running back, made a pivotal 29-yard field goal. This time, Ammendola got up to speed with coaching from special teams coordinator Frank Ross and got the job done for the Texans.

“Matt stepped in and did an unbelievable job for us,” Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said. “He’s a veteran kicker who’s been there before and done it before. We’re happy to have him. The confidence that we had in him and his range, he nailed it. Three field goals, and the game-winner after only being with us for a week. Credit to Matt, proud of him for stepping in after losing Ka’imi.”

A former undrafted free agent from Oklahoma State, Ammendola, 26, has previous stints with the Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers. He has made 21 of 29 career field goals with a long kick of 49 yards.

The Texans signed him, in part, because of his background with Weeks and Johnston. He was with the Texans for one preseason game last August against the San Francisco 49ers, making a 45-yard field goal and missing a 31-yarder.

“Honestly, the Texans just took a chance on me, and I’m just trying to make the most of every opportunity I have and go out there and make the best of it,” Ammendola said. “That’s what I did out there today, and all glory to God, and my long-snapper Jon Weeks, and my holder Cameron Johnson. Obviously, the guys out there to block, couldn’t have done it without them. And it’s honestly just a blessing to be out here with these guys and just have fun with it.”

With the Jets, Ammendola was cut in 2021 after hitting 13 of 19 field goals and 14 of 15 extra points through 11 games. He was signed to the practice squad after being released, then signed to a reserve-future deal before being released again.

Ammendola spent the offseason out of the NFL after a brief stint on the Green Bay Packers’ practice squad.

He hadn’t been on any official tryouts, but had been working out in California and auditioning for teams at free agent workouts conducted by former NFL kickers Nick Novak and John Carney.

“I’m just so blessed for the opportunity, and thank you to the Texans organization,” Ammendola said. “I’m excited to be here, and I couldn’t have done it without these guys.”

Ammendola told Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, who engineered the game-winning drive to get him in position for the kick, that he had it all under control.

“I kind of just go in there with the mindset just staying positive, and if it comes down to me then it comes down to me,” Ammendola said. “And at the end of the day, like I told C.J., if you put me out there I’m going to make the kick. Huge blessing again, and thank you to the Texans organization for having me here. I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to come.”

Aaron Wilson is a Texans and NFL reporter for KPRC 2 and click2houston.com.

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