ALAMEDA — For years Sebastian Janikowski has been the saving grace whenever the Oakland Raiders' offense stalled. The veteran kicker repeatedly bailed the team out with his powerful leg, setting numerous franchise records along the way.
He's about to establish another team record — though it's clearly one he'd rather do without.
With two games left before the Raiders (2-12) put the wraps on another disappointing season, Janikowski is on pace to have the fewest field goal attempts over a 16-game season in franchise history.
It's not that the coaching staff has lost faith in the former first-round draft pick.
In one of those rare statistical oddities, Oakland is last in the league in total offense and 31st in points yet owns the NFL's top red zone offense. The Raiders are scoring touchdowns from inside the opponents' 20-yard line at a 75 percent clip, essentially eliminating the need for the field goal unit.
“It's frustrating more than anything because you want to be out there trying to help the team win some games,” Janikowski said. “I never think about how many field goals I kick, I just want to win. I knew it was low.”
Janikowski has never attempted fewer than 25 field goals in any season since entering the NFL as the 17th overall pick in 2000. At his current rate, he'll finish with 19 this year.
That's one fewer than the current team record of 20, shared by Errol Mann (1978) and Jeff Jaeger (1990).
The upside is that despite the few opportunities he's had, the 36-year-old Janikowski has quietly rebounded nicely from one of the worst seasons of his career. He's converted 15 of 17 attempts and is one of 10 kickers in the league with a success rate of 88 percent or better this year.
Still, Janikowski's overall numbers have suffered because of Oakland's success in the red zone. The Raiders have scored touchdowns on 18 of 22 trips inside the 20.
Though he will finish as the team's leading scorer for a 15th consecutive year, Janikowski has gone four games without a single field goal attempt — the longest streak of Janikowski's career when healthy.
“We've just been efficient down there in scoring touchdowns,” Raiders interim coach Tony Sparano said Friday. “It's been a scenario where we haven't had to kick field goals, which is a good thing. But when we need one he's there and I know that we can count on him.”
Janikowski wasn't even aware of his low numbers until being told by a reporter. He pondered the thought briefly, shrugged his shoulders and smiled.
“When you're into the game, you always kick three, four field goals a game,” Janikowski said. “Now I'm averaging one a game or whatever that is.”
Oakland hosts Buffalo on Sunday, and Janikowski is 6-for-6 in field goal attempts against the Bills.
Notes: CB Tarell Brown (foot), WR Vincent Brown (groin), CB Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring), TE Brian Leonhardt (concussion), WR Denarius Moore (knee/ankle) and RT Menelik Watson (foot/ankle) did not practice and will not play against the Bills. … CB DJ Hayden (back) was limited and is questionable. … CB TJ Carrie, who is probable with a sore ankle, is expected to start in place of Brown.