New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski is coming off a rocky season where he appeared to sacrifice some accuracy on field goals and extra points in exchange for perfecting the art of the kick off. While there can be lengthy discussions over the value of one type of kick versus the other, Gostkowski doesn’t want to be a part of the discussion.
“I feel like if I talk about it too much,” he says, via Monday Morning Quarterback, “then I am already thinking it about it too much.”
And thinking about missed kicks spell the end for kickers in the NFL.
“I would try to stop the bleeding as soon as possible,” Gostkowski adds about missing kicks. “If you worry too much about the negative repercussions of something that you have done, you won't survive much longer than a game or two.
“I’ve always been able to move on and contain. I get mad, I get frustrated. No one gets more upset when they miss a kick than I do. But I have to be able to get over it for the sake of the team and my own job.”
Gostkowski draws from his experience as a baseball pitcher when overcoming tough times on the field. Just like when an ace pitcher gets taken for a home run, so too will kickers miss an attempt. What’s more important than that lost opportunity is how that player rebounds from the negative event.
A pitcher that can’t shake off that one at bat will have to be pulled from the game. A kicker that gets in a rut will likely find himself unemployed.
Gostkowski acknowledges that he has struggled at points in his career and points out his explanation for why: sometimes the game is just boring.
“As awesome as it is to be in the NFL and be on a great team, kicking can get boring,” Gostkowski says. “The amount of hours I have put in, in exercise and practice, just to kick a ball, it just seems crazy.”
And when the game seems out of hand- in favor of the Patriots or against- Gostkowski can find himself preoccupied by watching paint dry.
“The hardest thing for me throughout my whole career is just having random brain farts at random times,” he says. “You’re just kind of out there picking grass and you get thrust into the situation. A lot of it is on you to get yourself going. The coach doesn’t talk to me during the game. There’s not much going on, and you’re responsible for you.
“There are [baseball] closers that don’t pitch as well when they aren’t in a save situation. Sometimes you're not always into the flow of the game. It’s a lot easier to get into the game, mentally, when it’s tight and back and forth.”
MMQB tries to explain that Gostkowski struggles more “during lopsided games,” using the kicker’s missed extra point in the third quarter of Super Bowl LI as an example.
There’s some truth, as Gostkowski has hit a mere 83.3% of his field goal attempts when trailing by 10 or more points, but Gostkowski is money when the Patriots have a 10 point or greater lead, hitting 91.4% of attempts.
Additionally, Gostkowski has terrible fortune when kicking with exactly a 7-point lead, connecting on 33 of 42 attempts (a mere 78.6%). One of those misses came in week 2 of 2016 against the Miami Dolphins, which allowed the Dolphins to attempt a potential game-tying drive, highlighting one of the ruts Gostkowski talked about. That definitely wouldn’t have counted as a time he should have been “picking grass.”
But in the grand scheme of kickers, Gostkowski is as reliable of a kicker as you can find in the league. He’s a dynamo on kickoffs and he seemed to figure out of some his kicking problems halfway through the season. From week 8 onwards, Gostkowski improved from making 84.8% of his kicks to making 92.2% of his attempts, similar to the kicker Patriots fans grew to love from 2013-15.
If there’s any kicker in the league capable of brushing off a bad kick or a bad year, it’s Gostkowski. There’s a reason why the Patriots didn’t sign any competition at the position. Gostkowski is going to step right back on the field and will make whichever kick comes his way.