Over the first 13 years of Stephen Gostkowski’s career, the kicker out of Memphis missed just seven extra points. So far this season, he has missed four PATs in what is becoming a forgettable season for the former All-Pro kicker.
The all-time leading scorer for the New England Patriots, Gostkowski has won three Super Bowl titles and is the second-longest tenured player on the team behind Tom Brady. But perhaps, that time is quickly coming to an end. On the CBS broadcast during New England 16-10 triumph over Buffalo, commentator Ian Eagle stated “now this is an issue, though” after Gostkowski missed another extra point.
His struggles were forecasted in the preseason when he missed PATs in three games, and at 36-years-old, maybe he is over the hump. But when asked whether Gostkowski is becoming a concern, Bill Belichick gave a general answer, stating he thinks the whole team needs to work on some things to be better.
But clearly, Belichick isn’t fully confident in his aging kicker. Late in the second quarter on Sunday, rather than attempting to kick a 53-yard field goal, Belichick went for it on 4th & 8 and was fortunate to get a first down due to a pass interference penalty.
Why not kick the field goal? Gostkowski is 25 for 35 from 50-plus yards in his career, including just 5 for 13 over the last three seasons. Belichick was just playing the percentages, and it worked out thanks to a penalty.
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What’s Wrong with SG3?
Since the NFL moved extra points back to the 25-yard line, which used to be an automatic point has turned into an adventure for kickers. Imagine this: your a kicker on the sideline and your team gets a quick touchdown either defensively or with a long play on offense.
Now, you go from being cold to have to kick a 33-yard field goal with little warmup time. Even if teams are driving, you go from practicing a chip shot from inside the red zone to a long extra point with little time to adjust.
Because kicking is such a mental position, that’s a tough adjustment for a kicker to have to make, even as a professional. But the issue of missed PATs is not just present in New England — it’s league-wide.
In 2016, the year after extra points were pushed back, kickers averaged a collective 93.6 percent successful extra points — the lowest mark in league history. It has only slightly risen past 94 percent in the past few years while field goal percentage has declined to its lowest rate in nearly a decade.
How to Fix These Issues?
Something is wrong with the way Gostkowski is preparing to kick these PATs. With a high-octane offense like New England, Gostkowski should be prepared at all times to knock an extra point. He was perfect in the Patriots’ season-opener and has shown he can hit extra points.
Gostkowski has acknowledged his inconsistency and the team is prepared to stick with him as he works through some things. Showing confidence in Gostkowski is half the battle, which Belichick has so far opting not to go for two at any point.
With the kicker stating he is the root of the problem, the theory of him having a new holder may be out the window. The struggles started after Ryan Allen was released. Allen was often praised by Gostkowski as the league’s top holder, even saying this in a 2016 interview with NESN:
“If you have any doubt in your mind that the ball’s not going to be where you think it’s going to be, that can affect the way you attack the ball, and worrying about the snap or the hold is the last thing on my mind. Just knowing that it’s going to be where it is makes my job a ton easier.”
Considering there aren’t a ton of solid free agents options, the Patriots are likely to stick with Gostkowski, but a simple move like switching holding responsibilities or leaving kickoff duties to punter Jake Bailey could be in the cards shortly.