Do Footballs Fly Farther in Denver?



Imagine a fine afternoon in Denver the mile high city behind quarterback Peyton Manning's explosive offensive. The Denver Broncos have amassed attended to record today. They're hosting the Tennessee titans squad. That's lost three of its past four games. The titans. Have put up a good fight over the first half hour of game. Play three seconds before. Halftime. The score is Tennessee Twenty-one Denver seventeen. And her Broncos kicker. Matt Prater trotting out to the Denver forty six yard line. He readies himself for the play of his life. A mighty kick. Sends the ball soaring end over end across the field as a nervous crowd holds its breath. And then the place erupts with ease the ball sails through the yellow crossbar in Tennessee's endzone. It's a longest completed field goal in NFL history. A perfectly made sixty four yard drill. A for metric friends. That's about fifty eight meters perhaps emboldened by prayers heroics. The Broncos go on to crush the titans of the second half, thus clinching a playoff berth. The game. I just described took place on December eighth twenty thirteen today. Prater sixty four yards still holds the all-time distance record. Although his accomplishment has never been bested. Jaw-dropping football kicks are nothing. New in the rocky mountains. Three of the five longest field goals that the NFL has ever seen were made in Denver's mile high stadium. Broncos great Jason Elam nailed a sixty three yarder there in one thousand nine hundred eight a feat that was matched by Sebastian Janikowski when his Oakland Raiders came to town thirteen years later, but to hear some sports fans tell it those three kicks should have Asterix attached the official elevation of Colorado's capital is exactly one mile. That's one thousand six hundred nine meters above sea level. No other NFL cities. It's anywhere close to that. Altitude of the runner up is Glendale Arizona, which is just one thousand feet or three hundred meters. Above sea level Denver's elevation does affect the sporting events up there when football's kicked Broncos home game. It's apt to cover more distance than it would in lower elev-. Nations. And this doesn't just affect three point field goals. Kickoffs tend to go farther as well. There's a book called football physics. The science of the game by one university of Nebraska, professor Timothy gay for it. He ran the numbers on eight different teams from cities that sit more or less at sea level like the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots that played at least one road game in Denver during the two thousand one or two thousand two seasons. He found that in those two years the visiting kickers from low elevation towns. Enjoyed some great numbers when they went to Denver up in Colorado. There kickoffs traveled seventy point one yards. That's sixty four meters on average back in their respective home fields. The average kickoff distance dropped by seven point three yards. That's six point six meters to understand those numbers will need to talk about air density pretend as I'm sure you want to that you have a jet pack, if you were to take off at sea level and travel through earth's atmosphere in a straight line up the density of the air around you would get lower as your altitude. Creased? This is due to a universal law as the distance between two objects grows the gravitational pull they exert on each other lessons and air molecules are not exempt the pole of earth's gravity is more strongly felt by molecules that are closer to the planet's center at or below sea level, gravitational attraction pacts the molecules tightly together and the weight of the molecules sitting higher up in the atmosphere really bears down on the ones occupying low elevations in consequence the air, it self grows, denser, the closer you get to the surface way up in the mile high city, the Air's only about eighty two percent as dense as it is at sea level a ball kicked skyward in Denver will therefore encounter fewer air molecules than it would in Miami. That's important to note because air molecules create drag drag is a force that pushes against solid bodies as they travel through fluids or gases, a punted or kicked football will run headlong into a steady barrage of air molecules their combined drag will slow it down sometimes dramatic. Early. But remember in ludens, the air molecules are fewer and farther between therefore football's can and often do encounter less drag in Denver Denver's altitude impacts baseball as well. A physicist and Red Sox fan. Alan Nathan reports that fly balls at chorus field. Go proximity five percent farther than they do at Fenway park in Boston yet kicking on the Broncos home turf won't guarantee success for kickers or punters altitude reduces air density, and by extension drag but cold weather increases it and boy can Colorado get chilly. A twenty eleven survey of NFL statistical records found that in outdoor games. Played at temperatures of thirty nine degrees Fahrenheit, that's four degrees celsius or lower field goal. Accuracy drops by one point seven percent while the average partly is about one yard shorter than normal. These findings hold true throughout the league. So it's to Matt Prater credit that his record-breaking field goals split the uprights from sixty four yards out. Even though Denver. It's temperature had fallen. Just fourteen degrees Fahrenheit that's negative ten celsius at the time. Whatever the weather kicking specialists need to be on guard against complacency Denver's reputation as the mecca of ultra-long field goals is well established across the league. According to players that mile high mystique can trick visiting kickers into overestimating their abilities. We could say that when in doubt always air on the side of

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