Stephen Gostkowski has been good, often not great, with some bad mixed in this season. That’s not quite what folks have come to expect from Gostkowski.
Kickers have bad seasons and bounce back, and great teams often aren’t held back by mediocre kicking seasons. So, perhaps Gostkowski’s struggles won’t be a major factor when all is said and done.
Yet, when you look at Gostkowski’s dip, it started before this season began, and it was very costly. The four-time Pro Bowler missed his first extra point in nine years when he pushed a first-quarter point-after attempt wide right in last season’s AFC Championship in Denver. Though he would make both of his field-goal attempts in that game, that missed point forced the Pats to go for two in order to tie the scorer after a Rob Gronkowski touchdown with 12 seconds to play. The conversion failed, the Broncos went to the Super Bowl and Peyton Manning got his fairy tale ending.
Sunday sees Gostkowski and the Patriots return to the scene of the crime. Fortunately for them, things have been looking up of late. After missing three of his first 12 field-goal attempts and two of his first 21 point-after attempts, Gostkowski has been 11-for-12 on field goals and 18-for-19 on PATs since Week 8. He was given AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his Week 13 performance, a distinction he was also given in Week 1.
On the season, his numbers are starting to balance out. His four missed field goals are the most he’s had in a season since 2012, when he missed six. That season tied his 2006 rookie season for most misses.
The three missed extra points are obviously the worst of his career, but last season’s tule change to move such kicks to the 15-yard line was bound to make that happen for a lot of kickers.
Heading into Sunday, Gostkowski has been perfect (4-for-4 on field goals, 6-for-6 on PATs) the last two games. Denver wasn’t so friendly to him last time around, but perhaps it can be where he continues to regain his footing.