Back at the scene of the crime, Gostkowski can use Denver to continue way out of skid

Back at the scene of the crime, Gostkowski can use Denver to continue way out of skid

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. 

Felger: 'The Oakland Raiders are garbage, and they always have been'

Felger: 'The Oakland Raiders are garbage, and they always have been'

Want a classic Felger rant? Or forget Felger; a classic rant, period?

Watch the video above as Michael Felger eviscerates the Oakland Raiders.

"You know what the Oakland Raiders are? And their fans, and their city? A bunch of dirtbags," Felger said Tuesday on Felger & Mazz. "If that's not the most overrated team and organization in the history of sports, I don't know what is . . . That is a garbage organization and it has always has been.

"And the way people are treating them now, like . . . the Green Bay Packers or the Boston Celtics or the Montreal Canadiens or the New York Yankees are moving, is laughable. Laughable! The Oakland Raiders are garbage. And they always have been."

There's more . . . ,much more. Watch the video to hear the full treatment.

Rules changes are in: Field-goal leap, crackback blocks banned

Rules changes are in: Field-goal leap, crackback blocks banned

PHOENIX -- The NFL has announced which rules, bylaw and resolution proposals passed following Tuesday's vote at the Arizona Biltmore. The full list is below, but here are a couple of the noteworthy changes from a Patriots perspective . . . 

* That leap-the-line play that Jamie Collins and Shea McClellin have executed for the Patriots over the course of the last two seasons? That's been prohibited, as expected. The league did not want coaches to be responsible for putting a player in a position where he may suffer a head or neck injury. (Which is different from a player putting himself in that position with a split-second decision to leave his feet mid-play.)

MORE PATRIOTS

* Receivers running pass routes can now be considered "defenseless." That means that even within the five-yard "chuck" area beyond the line of scrimmage, receivers will have some measure of protection. The Patriots, like many teams, have called for linebackers to disrupt the routes of shallow crossers, which can lead to monster hits on unexpecting players. Those types of collisions may now be fewer and farther between.

* Crackback blocks are now prohibited by a player who is in motion, even if the player is not more than two yards outside the tackle box at the snap. What's the Patriots connection here? It seems as though the overtime play that won Super Bowl LI -- during which Julian Edelman came in motion and "cracked" down on corner Brian Poole -- is now illegal. We'll look for clarification on this when the league holds its press conference describing the rules changes later on Tuesday.

Approved 2017 Playing Rules Proposals

2a. By Philadelphia; Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goal and extra point plays. (Final language will be available on NFLCommunications.com)  

8.   By Competition Committee; Makes permanent the rule that disqualifies a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. 

9.   By Competition Committee; Changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line for one year only. 

11. By Competition Committee; Gives a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection. 

12. By Competition Committee; Makes crackback blocks prohibited by a backfield player who is in motion, even if he is not more than two yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped. 

13. By Competition Committee; Replaces the sideline replay monitor with a hand-held device and authorizes designated members of the Officiating department to make the final decision on replay reviews. 

14. By Competition Committee; Makes it Unsportsmanlike Conduct to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock. 

15. By Competition Committee; Makes actions to conserve time illegal after the two-minute warning of either half.

Approved 2017 Bylaw Proposals

4.     By Competition Committee; Liberalizes rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club’s facility for one year only. 

5.     By Competition Committee; Changes the procedures for returning a player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness to the Active List to be similar to those for returning a player that was Designated for Return.  

6.     By Competition Committee; The League office will transmit a Personnel Notice to clubs on Sundays during training camp and preseason.

Approved 2017 Resolution Proposal

G-4.     By Competition Committee: Permits a contract or non-contract non-football employee to interview with and be hired by another club during the playing season, provided the employer club has consented.