FOXBORO -- Halfway through the 2013 season, no kicker is having a better season than Stephen Gostkowski.
And the Patriots have never needed it more.
Through eight games, Gostkowski leads the NFL in attempts (21) makes (20). He’s second among kickers in points with 77 and that’s only because Matt Prater of the Broncos (79 points) has 26 more extra points than Gostkowski.
Sunday, Gostkowski made the go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter from 48 yards, putting points on the board after a touchdown to Rob Gronkowski came off the board three plays earlier.
He’s had a legitimately big kick in every week except Week 2. An accounting:
* Last week, Gostkowski had fourth quarter field goals of 39 and 44 yards -- the second tying the game with 16 seconds left against the Jets.
* Late in the third against the Saints, Gostkowski made a 54-yarder to put the Patriots up 20-17.
* In Cincy, he accounted for all the Patriots points in a 13-6 loss and got New England on the board with a 42-yarder eight seconds before halftime.
* He had 48 and 49 yarders in the win over Atlanta and 53, 46 and 33 yarders against Tampa. He had two ho-hum field goals in the first meeting with the Jets but, in the opener, his two fourth-quarter field goals included the game-winner from 35 yards out with 5 seconds left.
Gostkowski said Sunday he’s trying not to let success monkey with his mind.
“I really do just kick the kick,” he said. “I’ve come a long way in terms of not looking at stats or comparing yourself to other people and how they’re doing. It’s just a bunch of nonsense that distracts you from the job at hand.”
Developing narrow-focus, Gostkowski said, has taken time.
“When I was in college (at Memphis) I pitched and I’d be checking stats compared to others,” Gostkowski admitted.
And they weren’t so good.
After being selected to the Conference USA All-Freshman team, Gostkowski nose-dived his next two seasons with ERAs of 6.66 and 7.36. Gostkowski saw college kicking scholarships pulled when he had an awful senior season in Mississippi. Then came struggles as a pitcher after having demonstrated an ability to throw at the college level. The two occurrences suggested his problems had to do as much with his head as his arm. The process of getting his mind right is ongoing. Now, though, the seven-year veteran seems to have made peace with the things he cannot control.
“Kicking’s such a stat-oriented position but the situations that I’m in are nothing like other people’s,” he explained. “Some guys kick in a dome, some guys get to try a lot of long kicks, some guys kick in warm weather. Whatever my situation is doesn’t compare to other people’s so I just try to focus on what I want to do.”
In 2012, Gostkowski missed a would-be game winner against the Cardinals in Week 2. In 2011, a torn quad put him on IR.
He’s had two seasons of adversity to bounce back from. And he knows that he can’t ride the wave of emotion.
“It’s easy to do good when you’re doing good,” Gostkowski theorized in a Yogi Berra-like fashion. “If you have a bad kick or a bad game or whatever, you need to fall back on your confidence. It’s easy when it’s going good but you can get humbled quick. It’s tough to be good in this league and tough to be good consistently.”
So far this year, Gostkowski has been more than good. He’s been close to perfect for an offense that’s needed every point.