Gostkowski comes up clutch in Patriots win over Jets

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Gostkowski comes up clutch in Patriots win over Jets

FOXBORO -- Stephen Gostkowski could have relished Sunday's postgame.
After New England's 29-26 win over the Jets he could have taken his time getting changed while the media hoard grew around his locker. The kicker could have grinned while pulling on his socks, back against the reporters who grilled him about the Cardinals in Week 2, before turning to embrace Week 7's gushing about how he won the night.
But he skipped the whole show.
Gostkowski, who stood accountable after missing the potential game-winning 42-yard field goal against Arizona, ducked reporters this Sunday. It would have been a happier conference -- he made one from 43 to force overtime against the pesky Jets, and made another from 48 to finish them off.
The kicks were as clutch as any in his career. Punter Zoltan Mesko seemed to know as much when answering questions on Gostkowski's behalf.
"Best feeling in the world for the guy next to me," he said, nodding toward the vacant locker.
Mesko couldn't avoid the fact his teammates success would be held against Week 2's failure. He admitted the upswing was great -- how could he not? -- but scoffed at the idea it was implausible.
"I mean, I never lost hope . . . " Mesko said, screwing up his face in good-natured annoyance. "He's the guy we trust. He's like a brother to me because we're together all the time."
The ups and downs are perhaps viewed more violently on the outside.
When kickers are consistent, does anyone notice? How many made second quarter field goals are burned into our brains?
Reporters only crowd around a kicker when he saves a game or screws it up.
Gostkowski did talk after Buffalo three weeks ago. He had missed back-to-back attempts from 49 and 42 yards in the Patriots 52-28 win over the Bills. Though there was no loss to pin to his foot, it was considered an "off" day and he was expected to answer for it.
Have to ride the wave," Gostkowski had said. "Got knocked off board a couple times. Going to get right back up.
"You can get too high on yourself when youre doing really well, or you cant get too low on yourself when you do bad."
Maybe that's what this Sunday's disappearance was about -- not getting too high. A kicker who makes field goals is just doing what's expected of him, right? No matter the opponent, no matter the score.
"We're going to have our waves, we've just got to ride them less and less," Mesko explained. "I mean, don't make them as big as they are."
To Gostkowski's credit, those field goals couldn't have been bigger.

Belichick impressed by rookie Thuney's work at left guard

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Belichick impressed by rookie Thuney's work at left guard

FOXBORO -- Joe Thuney may not have won the starting left guard job officially, but Bill Belichick says he's on the right track. And for a rookie, that's feat in and of itself.

The third-round pick out of North Carolina State -- you may remember it as the Kevin-Faulk-in-the-No.-12-jersey selection -- has been the first-team left guard since the start of training camp, and he hasn't moved since. Thuney has occasionally taken snaps at center, and the Patriots have him learning multiple spots behind the scenes. But every time Nate Solder has run on to the field as the left tackle, Thuney has been there by his side at guard. 

Even going back to OTAs, held not long after he was drafted, Thuney was the top choice at that position. 

"Joe has done a good job with what we’ve given him," Belichick said. "There was a point where we felt comfortable making that, I’d say temporary move, It wasn’t permanent. But he has handled it well. I think he’s certainly moving towards being able to lock something down at some point. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think he is certainly gaining on it. He has had a good preseason, had a good spring."

What once may have been deemed a temporary move back in the spring -- perhaps due to players like Shaq Mason, Tre' Jackson and Josh Kline dealing with injuries early in the offseason -- now seems like it should be a permanent one.

Thuney's run as the No. 1 left guard has been uninterrupted because his performance hasn't warranted a change. He's held his own against former first-round defensive tackle Malcom Brown in one-on-one practice drills, and he's been the highest-graded player on the Patriots offensive line through two preseason games, per Pro Football Focus. (The only players with higher grades on the team through two games are tight end AJ Derby and defensive end Trey Flowers.)

The man who went viral before the draft for his ability to solve a Rubik's cube in just over a minute has flashed an understanding of how quickly things move on the inside. Plus, playing under unretired offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, Thuney has been quick himself, both picking up pressures and working to the second level in the running game with aplomb.

Thuney will still have a preseason game or two to solidify his grasp on a starting role, but even for the brief period during which Mason and Kline were simultaneously healthy, Thuney was the choice on the left side of the interior offensive line. Now that Mason is dealing with what's been reported as a hand injury, Jackson remains on PUP, and Jonathan Cooper is still out after suffering a foot injury early in camp, the job seems like Thuney's to lose.

That Belichick even hinted Thuney is "gaining on it" is an indication of just how impressive he's been during his short time as a pro.