Stephen Gostkowski’s record-breaking season could pay dividends in postseason
|12.29.13 at 10:09 pm ET|
FOXBORO — A pattern has been established. A startling 11 of the 16 games the Patriots played this season were decided by one possession, and there’s no reason to expect that the playoffs should be any different as the intensity of contests ramps up. In close games, there are few positions that are more important than the place-kicker, and the Patriots have a pretty good one in Stephen Gostkowski.
Gostkowski proved just how valuable he could be come the playoffs in Sunday’s 34-20 win over the Bills. Amidst a driving rain storm at Gillette Stadium, the eighth-year kicker booted four field goals, tying a career-high, and three came from 35 yards or more. Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, the 29-year-old didn’t let them affect him.
“It doesn’t get much tougher than that, as far as rain goes,” said Gostkowski. “I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of something that sloppy, but when it’s like that you’ve just got to increase your focus and increase how you go about things. You’ve got to slow things down a little bit and just make sure everything goes smoothly. [Long-snapper] Danny [Aiken] and [holder] Ryan [Allen] did a great job.
“One thing that stinks about playing here, but also that’s good is we practice outside everyday, no matter what it is. You complain and gripe when it’s 35 degrees outside and it’s raining or snowing or really windy. It pays off though. The coaches know what they’re doing when they put us out there for games like this.”
Sunday’s regular season finale put a cap on an outstanding season for the kicker, who was voted an AFC starter for the Pro Bowl late last week. His 29-yard field goal at the end of the first half gave him 37 on the year, besting his franchise record of 36 set in 2008. He finished the year with 38. He also broke Gino Cappelletti‘s Patriots record for most points in a season as he finished the year with 158, topping Cappelletti’s 155 in 1964. The 158 points led the league in scoring and Gostkowski is now just one of five players in league history to lead the league in scoring for at least three seasons (he also led the league in scoring in 2008 and 2012).
“I didn’t know that happened. That’s cool I guess,” he said. “I’m just happy we got the first round bye.”
With as many close games and tough defeats as the Patriots have had in the playoffs during Gostkowski’s time in New England, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him with a pressure kick with the season in the balance in January. In past years, such a prospect might have made fans a little uneasy, but this has been Gostkowski’s best season. He’s amidst a streak of making 24 straight fourth quarter kicks and only missing three of 37 kicks all season, with all three coming from more than 40 yards.
Despite the impressive year, Gostkowski was reluctant to talk about personal achievements. When asked to reflect upon his Pro Bowl season he replied: “Oh, I don’t care about that stuff. I’m just happy we got the bye.”
In a year where six of the Patriots 12 wins were decided by a field goal or less, there is a good chance he will be called upon in the playoffs and with the year that he’s had, Gostkowski appears primed for the opportunity.