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. 

Poll ranks Patriots as NFL's most 'badass' team

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Poll ranks Patriots as NFL's most 'badass' team

Five-time Super Bowl champions. Seven-time AFC champs. Fourteen-time AFC East champs. Now, Bill Belichick's Patriots have another title.

NFL's most "badass" team.

The Tampa Bay Times polled a panel of 43 NFL writers and asked them for the top three most "badass" teams and players in the NFL.

MORE PATRIOTS

The defending Super Bowl champion Patriots came out on top with 29 top-three votes. 

Here's a sampling of the panelists' comments:

"They keep winning in a league designed to discourage dynasties." -Terez A. Paylor, Kansas City Star

"Hands down. They take a three-touchdown lead and keep throwing, and throwing, and don't give a damn what anybody thinks." -Tyler Dunne, Bleacher Report

"For a decade they've been toying with and laughing at the rest of the league. The biggest bullies on the block." — Ralph Vacchiano, SNY

"Behind the glitz and glamour of having the game's greatest quarterback, the Patriots ranked among the league's top 10 scoring defenses each of the past five seasons, including No. 1 in 2016." — Ryan Wood, Green Bay Press-Gazette

The most badass player? Veteran Steelers linebacker James Harrison. The highest-ranked Patriot on the list? Tom Brady at No. 6. Rob Gronkowski was tied with Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack at No. 8. Julian Edelman was among the others receiving votes. 

Here are the full rankings: 

MOST BADASS TEAM 

1. Patriots (29 votes)

2. Seahawks (27)

3. Steelers (18)

4. Raiders (9)

5. Ravens (8)

6t. Broncos (6)

6t. Cowboys (6)

8. Bengals (4)

9t. Cardinals (2)

9t. Packers (2)

9t. Panthers (2)

9t. Texans (2)

Also receiving votes: Chiefs, Falcons, Rams, Titans (1 each)

MOST BADASS PLAYER

1. James Harrison, Steelers LB (14 votes)

2t. Marshawn Lynch, Raiders RB (10)

2t. J.J. Watt, Texans DE (10)

4t. Kam Chancellor, Seahawks S (8)

4t. Ndamukong Suh, Dolphins DT (8)

6. Tom Brady, Patriots QB (7)

7. Von Miller, Broncos LB (6)

8t. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots TE (5)

8t. Khalil Mack, Raiders LB (5)

10. Aaron Donald, Rams DT (4)