While the New England Patriots cruised to a comfortable 43-0 victory against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, not all was as perfect as the final score might indicate. The offense, for example, had a turnover in the fourth quarter when Sony Michel fumbled the ball. The offensive line suffered another injury when Isaiah Wynn hurt his foot. And kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed three kicks for the first time in his 14-year career.
Gostkowski entered the game in Miami coming off an encouraging performance in Week 1 during which he made all seven of his place kicks (four field goals plus three extra points). He failed to capitalize on the momentum he built against the Pittsburgh Steelers, however, and looked shaky against the Dolphins: the 35-year-old sent a 48-yard field goal attempt wide to the right in the second quarter, and later missed two extra points as well.
“I stunk today. Not my day. It was pretty terrible on my part,” Gostkowski said in the locker room after the game (transcripts via the Boston Herald’s Kevin Duffy) — one during which he did make five kicks but saw his misses, albeit them being not costly in the great scheme of things, overshadow his other accomplishments. “Today just sucked [but] I’m not going to sit around and sulk about it. I know I stunk. I know I need to get better.”
After a 2018 season that saw him go 32 of 38 on field goals (84.2%) and 59 of 60 on extra points (98.3%), Gostkowski appears to continue being a somewhat streaky player: when he gets going like he did last week, he can be one of the NFL’s most reliable kickers; when he starts struggling, however, anything seems to be possible. Just think back to Super Bowl 53, when head coach Bill Belichick thought about going for a 4th and 1 late in the fourth quarter instead of attempting a 41-yard field goal that Gostkowski ultimately made.
For the time being, however, the Patriots are rolling with the veteran despite his inconsistencies — the alternatives are effectively non-existent, after all, as teams like the New York Jets or Minnesota Vikings have recently found out. Gostkowski himself still knows that he will need to get better if he wants to keep the trust of his coaches and teammates, but he sounds comfortable in his abilities to turn the ship around again.
“Every year has different challenges and different ways you feel. You do the best you can with what you’ve got. And this hasn’t been the best start, but I’m not going to throw in the towel,” he said before adding that he will try to look for the cause of his recent misses and work on it. “There’s multitudes of factors of why a kick can go in or not. I’m sure there’s something I’ll see and hopefully I’ll try to correct it.”
With the way the Patriots have been playing on both offense and defense through the first two weeks of the season, Gostkowski being perfect was not needed. It is clear that not every game will be of the blowout type this year, however, and the team and special teams coach Joe Judge will have to hope that one of the most accurate kickers the league has ever seen can go back to being just that.