ATLANTA - AUGUST 19: Kicker Stephen Gostkowski of the New England Patriots follows a kick during pre-game drills before the preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on August 19, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
Stephen Gostkowski tied his career-long with a 53-yard field goal on Sunday. The bomb would’ve gone at least 60, which only adds to the encouragement for the Patriots’ once maligned kicker.
Gostkowski, 29, converted just 82.9 percent of his field goals in 2012, which marked the lowest since his rookie season (76.9). After missing a key field goal in a loss to the Cardinals early last season, Patriots fans could be heard far and wide across New England calling for Gostkowski’s job. Those rumblings may have finally been drowned out all together on Sunday.
Gostkowski endured his fair share of accuracy problems during the preseason, missing three of his six attempts and all three over 40 yards, prompting more chatter about his job security to crop up. And with the Patriots’ offense struggling to put points on the board or convert in the red zone (4-for-13) at the near record-breaking pace of the past few seasons, Gostkowski has been leaned on more heavily than ever before. None of the talk or pressure has fazed the eight-year veteran in the least, though. He’s been rock solid so far this season.
In the Patriots’ three games this season, Gostkowski has already attempted nine field goal attempts, which projected over a full 16-game schedule would give him 48 attempts by season’s end — eight more than his career-high of 40 set in 2008. Gostkowski’s also made eight of those attempts, including three of four from 40-plus yards and his only 50-yard attempt, which is the aforementioned beaut from Sunday. His only miss on the season came on a shanked 43-yard attempt at the end of the first half against the Jets — and that game ugly all around, so we’ll give him a pass.
The dead accuracy he’s shown through three weeks doesn’t mean he won’t miss a kick here and there or even endure struggles at some point this season. Gostkowski is only human after all, and even worse he has to deal with the pressure of being a kicker on one of the best team’s in football.
Fortunately for him, he likely won’t have to kick the near-50 field goals he’s projected come season’s end. Sooner or later the Patriots will get both Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola back on the field, and the offense already showed signs of improvement in Sunday’s win against the Buccaneers. So the over-reliance on Gostkowski will pass at some point, but the Patriots sure hope that doesn’t mean his consistency will follow suit.
Gostkowski’s precision to this point has certainly been encouraging, and at the very least it’s also instilled a renewed sense of confidence in him and the Patriots’ kicking game.
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