Gostkowski: My confidence will always be high

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Gostkowski: My confidence will always be high

FOXBORO -- The answers weren't in the film. There were no bad snaps or shaky holds.

Try as one might to find a reason for why Stephen Gostkowski has gone into a bit of a slump, the Patriots kicker kept coming up with the same simple response: He has just plain missed.

"It's just a cycle and you go through the ups and downs," Gostkowski said. "You gotta ride the wave. I've got knocked off the board a couple times this year and I'm going to get right back up there, and go out there with confidence and self belief. I've made way more kicks than I've missed in this career. And you see other guys that you respect and think are really good and the same thing happens to them at some point in their career, and it's not the end of the world. It's four games into the year and you just look forward to the next game and the next kick."

Gostkowski missed his first two kicks against the Bills in New England's Week 4 win, 52-28. Though his misses didn't have a negative impact on the game's outcome for the Patriots, they extended the conversation surrounding Gostkowski that began after he missed a game-winning field goal at home against the Cardinals in Week 2.

Why had a guy who had made 84 percent of his kicks in his career missed three of his first 13 this season?

Gostkowski preferred to focus on the positive.

"The kicks I did miss weren't by much," he said. "It's just a little fine-tuning. My leg strength feels great. I'm crushing the ball in kickoffs. I just gotta pay a little more attention to detail. Things will work out. I've been working hard, I wouldn't change any way that I've prepared, I just gotta focus and execute better."

Gostkowski went on to make his third field goal attempt of the Bills game -- a 30-yarder in the fourth quarter -- but he said he was still fuming afterwards because of his misses.

"I'm pissed off no matter what after that game," Gostkowski said. "Even if I'd made seven field goals after that. I'm always hard on myself, but I also keep a good perspective and I move on. If I wasn't working hard and I wasn't giving it my all and I hadn't had success before, maybe I could look back and say I wish I'd have done something different. That's not the case. I feel good with the way I came in this season and I'm just gonna keep the same approach and keep kicking and that's all I can do."

Earlier this week coach Bill Belichick threw his support behind Gostkowski, who is in his seventh year with the Patriots and has the ninth-best field goal percentage in the history of the league.

"Steve, again, had some real good plays (Sunday)," Belichick said. "Again, thats an operation that involves more than one guy. Its not a pitcher taking the ball on the mound or a golfer teeing a ball up. Its a snap, a hold, a kick -- a whole process. Well keep working hard at it."

Gostkowski was asked about that three-man operation -- Danny Aiken is the team's long-snapper, while punter Zoltan Mesko holds for field goals -- and how it was functioning.

"It's good," he said simply.

All of Gostkowski's misses have been from beyond 40 yards. Though they were kicks he expects to make, they weren't chip shots. And until his miss as time wound down against the Cardinals, Gostkowski's Week 2 performance may have been the best of his career as he knocked down kicks from 46, 34, 51 and 53 yards so his physical skills certainly aren't waning. Just look at his kickoffs -- he's second in the league with 18 touchbacks.

But where does he go from here? What does he do to get back to looking like one of the league's most reliable kickers?

"Just go back to work," Gostkowski said. "Focus a little harder. It's not that I'm not kicking enough, I'm kicking plenty. It's not that I'm not practicing good. I'm practicing very good. It's just a matter of execution. I just have to do a better job of executing. I've been here before. I've missed two kicks in a row maybe twice in my career, but it has happened. Missed big kicks in my career going back to high school and I've moved on from that. There's no reason why I don't think that I could run off 10 or 15 in a row."

Gostkowski will have until Sunday before he has a chance to get on a roll, but he can deal with the wait. As a college baseball pitcher at the University of Memphis, he was used to playing and then having to live with the result until taking the mound again a week later.

Just as it was then from start to start, what happened last week is behind him, and he says he is ready -- physically and mentally -- to do his job against the Broncos.

"My confidence will always be high," Gostkowski said. "I've been doing this for so long and I've had so many ups and downs. Things have a way of working themselves out whether good or bad. I don't worry about things I can't control, I just control how hard I work and how hard I concentrate."

Roethlisberger takes aim at young Steelers teammates after loss to Patriots

Roethlisberger takes aim at young Steelers teammates after loss to Patriots

FOXBORO – Ben Roethlisberger rolled some teammates under the bus Sunday night but it was hard to tell exactly which ones had the tire tracks to prove it.

“It just at times almost felt like it was almost too big for some of the young guys,” said Roethlisberger after the Steelers were sent home sucking on a 36-17 loss.

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

He could have been talking about young receivers Sammie Coates and Cobi Hamilton, each of whom had deep balls slide through or past their hands.

Or he could have been talking about Antonio Brown, who within a week, went from being the star of his own Facebook Live broadcast to being bottled up by the Patriots secondary (seven catches, 77 yards).

While Coates and Hamilton didn’t come up with “combat catches,” a Steelers term that both Roethlisberger and head coach Mike Tomlin employed, Brown launched the Steelers week of preparation by depantsing Tomlin and the rest of the Steelers veterans with his tone deaf self-promotion.  

Roethlisberger may have been talking about the on-field product when he said the following, but it just as easily could be applied to Brown.

“Hopefully this is a learning game for guys to understand that this isn’t promised to anybody,” said Roethlisberger. “Tomorrow’s not promised to any of us and just to make the playoffs isn’t enough to get to this championship game. A lot of guys have been in this league for a long time and haven’t been to any of these or have been to very few, so I hope that they understand the importance and relish the opportunity if it comes again.”

Asked if he thinks the younger players understood that, Roethlisberger said, “I don’t know. That’s a good question. That’s probably a question for other guys, but I know I did.”

Brady on Hogan after record-setting night: 'He's been incredible'

Brady on Hogan after record-setting night: 'He's been incredible'

FOXBORO -- Someone told Chris Hogan before the AFC Championship that it would be a game he'd look back on 30 years from now and remember in perfect detail. 

That may be difficult for him given the sheer volume of plays he made in Sunday's 36-17 win over the Steelers. Hogan finished the game with nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 12 targets, surpassing Deion Branch for the franchise record for receiving yards in a postseason game.

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

"It'll be something that definitely I'll remember for the rest of my career," he said, "and probably for the rest of my life . . . I'm happy for everyone in this locker room, all these guys in the locker room, the coaches. We've worked so hard to get here, and I was just happy that I was able to help this team get a win tonight."

Hogan did more than that. He was pivotal during New England's first touchdown drive of the night, catching passes on three consecutive plays for a total of 41 yards, and then reeling in an easy 16-yard touchdown when the Steelers defense lost track of him in the right half of the end zone. 

"I moved a little bit to the left because they were pressuring up the middle, and the pocket kind of collapsed," Brady said. "So I kind of slid to the left and I had good vision. They kind of bit down on Julian [Edelman] pretty hard, and then Hogs just was standing there in the back of the end zone."

Hogan's other catches were generally more contested than that one, but several were made without a Steelers defender harrassing him. And when they let him be, he made them pay. 

The flea-flicker pass that resulted in Hogan's second score of the day was a kick in the gut for the Steelers defense, putting the Patriots ahead, 17-6. Brady initially needed a reminder of how Hogan scored his second touchdown of the night, saying, "Oh, the flea-flicker. How could I forget that?"

"We ran one earlier in the year against, I think it was Baltimore, and it worked," Brady added. "I hit Hogan on that one too, on a crossing route. Those were well-executed plays. It's nice when you can take advantage of some of those plays, nice to gain some chunks that way when you kind of get some misdirection or double-pass, flea-flicker, something like that. It's a big spark for the team."

At that point Hogan already had racked up a career day. He had never scored multiple touchdowns in an NFL game coming in, and he set his own career-high for receiving in the postseason with 117 yards. In his first and only playoff game the week before, he had 95 yards on four catches. 

Hogan suffered a thigh injury in that game that limited him in practice and made him questionable against the Steelers. But he played, and he gave his team an early boost, helping force the Steelers to play catch-up for the vast majority of the night.

And the injury didn't appear to slow him down all that much. Though there were times when he was slow to get to his feet after being tackled, he showed the kind of speed that allowed him to put himself near the top of the list in the NFL when it comes to yards-per-catch (18.7). Among  receivers with at least 20 catches, he trailed only Sammie Coates (20.7) of the Steelers. 

"He's been incredible," Brady said. "I mean, to lead the league in average yards per catch is spectacular. He's made big plays for us all season. He made big plays in the biggest game of the year for us."

It's one that he'll remember for a long time, but he's hoping to add to that happy memory in two weeks.

"We've grinded throughout this entire year, this is what we worked for, and this is what we wanted to get to," Hogan said. "It's a special moment for all of these guys in this locker room. We'll enjoy this and get back to work because we've got one more."