If New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski converted all of his kicking attempts on Sunday, the Patriots would have defeated the Los Angeles Chargers by a far more comfortable 27-13 margin and I would have been able to claim victory over Alec Shane for correctly predicting the outcome of the game.
Alas, neither Gostkowski nor myself were perfect on the day, and yet only Gostkowski has to answer for his misses. A few reporters spoke with Gostkowski after the game to hear his explanations for the two 43-yard missed field goals that could have prevented the Chargers final drive from having any excitement.
First 43-yard miss
“The first one that I missed to the left, I didn’t get good rotation,” Gostkowski explained. “The first one was definitely tough and not my best kick.”
Gostkowski needed a better rotation to use his torque to send the ball down the middle of the uprights. Without that rotation to power the ball back to the middle, the ball went straight to the left of the upright.
This miss is going to eat at Gostkowski the most over the bye week because this was an error in technique and that falls directly on Gostkowski’s shoulders.
“I get ticked off and mad just like anybody else,” Gostkowski said about missing kicks. “I don’t look at it like a ‘Debbie Downer’, it’s just part of the game. It stinks and I get mad. It’s going to bother me for a week, probably two weeks, but that’s just part of the game. If you can’t deal with it, then you probably shouldn’t be here. It stinks and it’s tough to swallow, but we won and it’s a little easier to wake up tomorrow knowing that when you do bad and the team can pick you up. That’s part of being a part of a good team.”
Gostkowski has made his fair share of important kicks for the Patriots over the years, including a crucial 48-yard conversion against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to ice the game in week 5. He’ll get another chance to win games for the Patriots moving forward.
Second 43-yard miss
“I aimed right down the middle on that one and it got pushed a little bit,” Gostkowski said about his second miss. “The second one I thought I hit pretty good and sometimes that happens...I thought the second one I missed, I put a good swing on it. I maybe kicked at it too hard into the wind. Sometimes if you get a lot of spin on the ball, the wind’s going to affect it more, so you just got to kick a ball that has a little less rotation on it so it cuts through the wind a little better.”
While Gostkowski wasn’t waving away his second miss of the day, he definitely didn’t lay the blame as much at his own feet, instead pointing at the wind in the stadium. He still blamed himself for not reading the wind as well as he should have, but sometimes extra gusts that push the ball away from the uprights just happen.
“It picked up here and there, it was kind of gusty,” Gostkowski said about the wind. “It wasn’t terribly bad, but you got to be able to deal with it a little better.”
In the future, Gostkowski says he’ll need to put less movement on the ball to reduce the chances for the wind to grab and pull the ball away from the target.
It was painful to see Gostkowski miss two makeable kicks, especially after his struggles in 2016 and after he looked rock solid for the first 7 games of the 2017 season. He will get the bye week to stew over his mistakes, put them behind him, and get ready to move forward for the rest of the year.
The Patriots get two high-altitude games out of their bye week in Denver against the Broncos and in Mexico City against the Raiders. Gostkowski should have plenty of chances to redeem himself in the weeks to come.