Nick Novak knows all about second chances.
The Redskins kicker was granted a second chance earlier this season when he re-signed with the team after John Hall was sidelined for the season with a groin injury.
On Sunday, against the Dallas Cowboys at FedExField, Novak was granted a second chance again.
Novak missed a game-winning 49-yard field goal attempt--it sailed wide right--with 31 seconds left in the game.
In a stunning reversal of fortune, the Redskins blocked an attempt by Dallas kicker Mike Vanderjagt with six seconds left. Sean Taylor's 30-yard return and a 15-yard face mask penalty on the Cowboys set Novak up for another game-winning kick.
His second attempt, a 47-yarder, began to sail wide right, too.
"I don't know if that right side of the stadium just started blowing right at the same time, but something pushed it," Novak said.
The ball sailed inside the right goalpost. And the Redskins had won in dramatic fashion, 22-19.
Novak was mobbed by dozens of Redskins as players swarmed the field.
"It's a dream to hit the game-winner," he said. "Just to see my teammates come out on to the field and tackle me, it was one of the greatest thrills I've ever been a part of. And to get that second chance after I thought I was going to be the most hated guy in Washington for a second."
Novak blamed his missed 49-yarder on poor follow-through. He said he saw a Dallas blitzer out of the corner of his eye and he may have compensated on his follow through to avoid him.
Gibbs did not say anything to Novak as he came off the field, dejected.
"I saw some of the guys talk to him," Gibbs said. "I understand that world. I do better when I don't talk to him, because I think I make him nervous. It's a tough world to be in because everything is on the line, and you see how hard your buddies work."
Novak wasn't sure that he would have another opportunity. He refused to quit, going right over to the practice net. He heard the "thump-thump" of the blocked field goal attempt on Vanderjagt, and he was preparing for overtime when a teammate told him to get out on the field for a game-winning kick.
"I didn't realize that there's a rule that a game can't end on a penalty, so one of the players said, 'Get in there, Nick,'" Novak said. "I got out there, and it all happened so fast. I didn't even get practice swing in."
The ball sailed through, and the celebration was on.
Novak rejoined the Redskins on Oct. 10 after John Hall's injury. The second-year kicker played in six games for the Redskins in 2005 and was 5-of-7 on field goal attempts and 15-of-15 on PATs, including a game-winning 39-yarder in Week 3 against Seattle at FedExField.
Novak has local roots. He was a four-year letterman at Maryland and finished his career as the leading scorer in ACC history and tied for fifth in NCAA Division I-A history with 393 career points on 80-of-107 field goals and 153-of-159 PATs. Novak hails from nearby Charlottesville, Va. and prepped at Albermarle High School.
Two weeks ago, he missed his first two field goal attempts of the season in the Redskins' 36-22 loss at Indianapolis on Oct. 22. On Sunday against Dallas, Novak connected on a 28-yard field goal in the first quarter, giving him a much-needed boost.
After missing the 49-yarder with 31 seconds left, Novak knew he couldn't miss again. All he needed was the opportunity. Remarkably, he got one. And he refused to succumb to the pressure.
"I needed to make that kick," Novak said. "I don't know what my future is. Making that kick solidifies me for another week. But in every job there's a little bit of pressure. That's about as big as it gets for a kicker.
"It's a dream come true for me. You don't often get second chances. I'm glad I came through for the team and for Washington."