The New England Patriots played a very good game against the Miami Dolphins, but not all was as perfect as the final score of 43-0 might indicate. The club still left some points on the board, after all, with the kicking operation being unable to convert three of its opportunities: Stephen Gostkowski missed a 48-yard field goal attempt wide right and also was off the mark on two of his six extra point tries.
The performance was uncharacteristically bad for Gostkowski, who has never missed three kicks in a single game heading into Sunday’s contest. He — in his own words — “stunk” against the Dolphins. In a way, the game can therefore be seen as a continuation of a somewhat sloppy preseason for the place kicking unit: Gostkowski went a combined 12 of 15 during the exhibition schedule before making all seven of his kicks during the season opener.
One man does not sound concerned about Gostkowski’s recent inconsistencies just yet, though: Patriots head coach Bill Belichick backed the 35-year-old and the rest of the specialists — long snapper Joe Cardona and rookie holder/punter Jake Bailey — during a conference call on Monday: “Steve’s a great kicker, he’s made a lot of big kicks for us. He certainly kicked well last week against Pittsburgh,” said Belichick about the veteran.
“I have confidence in all of the people that are involved here, the coaches, the players, the specialists, so forth,” added New England’s head coach when talking about the kicking game operation. While Belichick’s confidence — at least publicly — can be seen as a positive sign when it comes to Gostkowski, the numbers show a perhaps worrying trend as Pats Pulpit’s own Rich Hill recently found out:
Obviously small sample size in 2019, but I think Stephen Gostkowski's kicks from 40+ are a valid reason for concern.— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) September 16, 2019
His extra points will likely fall in his normal 30-39 yard conversion rate in the mid-90s, so no problem there. pic.twitter.com/M5V7MBG2PP
As can be seen, Gostkowski’s long range accuracy has decreased steadily since 2014 — hitting only 60% in 2018, tied for third worst from 40+ yards out in his career. So far in 2019 and with a naturally small sample size, Gostkowski is at 50% at long field goals and below 80% on extra points. For Belichick, however, the success in such situations is tied not just to one person but the entire three-man crew mentioned above.
“As we know, the field goal operation is really a full-team play. It’s not just one guy, but the most important player is the kicker in that particular play. So we’ve just got to do a good job all the way around of coaching, and timing and execution by the specialists and protection by the other eight players, and just work at it,” said the future Hall of Famer. “We’ll just have to work harder at it and expect better results.”