Gostkowski ready for anything in playoffs

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Gostkowski ready for anything in playoffs

FOXBORO - Fourteen field goals were kicked in the Wild Card round of the 2012 NFL playoffs.

Any team with a prayer of sticking around long in the postseason needs to be able to rely on its placekicker at some point.

This season, Stephen Gostkowski was good but not great for the Patriots. He made 29 of his 35 attempts, missing twice between 30 and 39 yards and four times between 40 and 49.

He missed one kick in each of the Patriots last three games (39, 43 and 41 yards). They'll need him to be better than that in the playoffs.

Gostkowski generally sails along unperturbed and he was this week when I asked him about the game coming down to his toe.

"You never know what you're gonna get and how many kicks you're gonna get," he said. "You just gotta be ready for anything. You could kick no field goals, you could kick five. You just never know."

With mild weather forecast for Sunday evening, Gillette may not provide a true home-field advantage in terms of the elements. But Gostkowski believes being in Foxboro brings an advantage because he's kicked in all types of weather.

"It's more comfortable with just the process of playing at home," he said. "It's definitely a tougher place to kick up here than some other places but luckily for us we get to practice outside every day. Cold and windy feels more normal than if I were to go down to 80 degree weather.

"On the flip side, if you're practicing in a dome every day, it would be a lot different coming up to cold and windy," he added. "Everybody plays better at home, or seems to. I don't think it could be any different for our position."

Houston's kicker Shayne Graham -- who kicked for the Patriots in 2010 when Gostkowski was injured -- was 31 for 38 this season. He made four last week in the Wild Card game against the Bengals. He also played for Cincinnati, so the elements aren't going to be unfamiliar for him.

Still, said Gostkowski, the unknown lurks when it comes to weather.

"You never know," he said. "We had that one day against Tennessee (in 2009) where there was zero chance of precipitation and we got a foot of snow."

Brissett sees room for improvement but feels he's 'moving in the right direction'

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Brissett sees room for improvement but feels he's 'moving in the right direction'

HOUSTON -- It wasn't the mechanics of his throwing motion that he was concerned about. For Jacoby Brissett, it was the way in which he was seeing the Texans defense, the length of time it took to get a feel for the game, and how his night ended that bothered him. 

"I felt like I was getting my rhythm," Brissett said after the Patriots lost their exhibition with the Texans on Saturday, 23-20. "But you can't really remember all that stuff when the last play happens like that. It's the last one."

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Though the outcome of the game meant nothing, Brissett and his teammates were looking for a game-winning touchdown with less than a minute left when Brissett had the ball knocked from his hands and out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. 

Brissett's night finished up with him going 5-for-10 for 36 yards. He was sacked twice and pressured on seven of his 15 drop-backs. 

The reserves playing for the Texans in the fourth quarter made life difficult for Brissett and his teammates as their first two drives resulted in punts. Brissett was hit twice on those drives, and his first third-down attempt failed when Houston sniffed out a screen. The Patriots had what looked like a third-and-21 conversion on their next sequence, but Devin Lucien bobbled a catch deep over the middle of the field that fell incomplete. 

Brissett seemed to make a couple of relatively difficult throws during his time on the field -- he nearly had a game-winning touchdown pass completed to Cody Hollister on a fade to the back corner of Houston's end zone, but Hollister got just one foot in-bounds -- yet he wished he could have done more to spark the Patriots offense quickly.

"I think I'm throwing the ball good," he said. "I don't think that's the issue. I think it's more so just my eyes and the timing of everything. I don't think it's throwing -- actually throwing. I think it's the mechanics of playing the game."

There was some good to be taken from Brissett's brief outing. After taking over possession with less than two minutes left, he helped the Patriots get deep into Texans territory with completions to Lucien, Sam Cotton and a third-down strike to DJ Foster. He also avoided a near sack, getting out of bounds to stop the clock, and he wisely spiked the football into the turf when he realized Houston had figured out another screen was coming.

Brissett looked back on where the third-team offense was at the start of camp -- with players like receivers Tony Washington and KJ Maye having just been added to the roster -- and pointed out that he felt they were significantly ahead of where they were then.

"I think we've gotten a lot better," Brissett said. "Just this two-minute drive is a good example. Last week we didn't make it past, what, the 40-yard line [against Jacksonville]? This week we're in the red zone with a chance to win the game. I think a lot of our young guys are stepping up and making plays and we're getting a little continuity together."

As for Brissett himself? The 2016 third-round pick has been the subject of some media speculation as to whether or not his spot on the 53-man roster is safe. After seeing some inconsistency in his play during camp practices and last week's game against the Jaguars, there were those who wondered if he was progressing at a rate that would help him survive this year's cutdown date. 

Asked to give a self-evaluation after the Texans game, Brissett said, "I definitely want to do more and play better, but there are good things getting done, good learning experiences. Moving in the right direction . . . 

"I feel like I'm still getting better. I think I'm doing good things. I mean, this league is hard. You just continue to work on things and continue to get better. Yeah, [tonight] the end result is a loss, but there were some good things we did out there. Some things it's good to get on film and learn from. It's a learning experience. That's what this is right now."

Whether the coaching staff sees the improvement Brissett described is unclear. 

"We've all got a long way to go," Belichick said following Saturday's game when asked about Brissett's progress. "I don't think anybody's where we need to be. Any player. Any coach. Any anybody . . . Just grinding it out. It's going to take a while."

Brissett insisted that coaches have been just as tight-lipped behind the scenes when it comes to how they've seen him grow summer. 

"I don't know what they think," Brissett said with a smile. "They don't tell me . . . I'm putting my best foot forward. It's up to them if they think I've been getting better or not."