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Bill Belichick on D&H: We still have faith in Stephen Gostkowski 10.24.16 at 4:58 pm ET
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Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick

On WEEI’s Dale & Holley with Thornton on Monday afternoon, Patriots coach Bill Belichick reiterated his support for kicker Stephen Gostkowski. Belichick said that the struggles that have plagued Gostkowski are pretty much par for the course for anyone who has spent time in the NFL.

“I think all players go through periods of time every year when they maybe aren’t as good as they are at other times. Coaches go through that too,” he said. “We all have to work though it — I don’t think there’s any shortcut. Just do what we believe, and keep working hard and try to improve it. Nobody else is going to change it. We all have to do it ourselves. I think every player feels like that. There are certain parts of the year where things are going better than they did in another part. If they’re not going good, then you do something to try and change that course.”

Belichick was asked about the challenge of kicking at Heinz Field, a notoriously difficult place for kicking.

“Part of the issue there is just the swirling wind,” he said. “Sometimes the wind moves the ball and sometimes it doesn’t. In all honesty, you can stand in different parts of the field and the wind is blowing in a different direction. You feel like it’s at your back, and then you walk a little ways, and then, all of a sudden, you feel the wind change. It didn’t feel like it felt 30 yards in a different spot. Both kickers kicked on the same field and both had trouble.”

Belichick also weighed in on a number of other topics:

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Read More: Bill Belichick, pat chung, Stephen Gostkowski,
After Patriots rush for 140 yards, Pittsburgh LB Ryan Shazier rips Steelers’ run defense 10.24.16 at 2:45 pm ET
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Ryan Shazier and the Steelers struggled to stop LeGarrette Blount. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Ryan Shazier and the Steelers struggled to stop LeGarrette Blount. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

In the wake of Sunday’s loss to the Patriots — and the fact that LeGarrette Blount ran for a season-high 127 yards against the Steelers — Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier ripped his team, saying that the Steelers’ run defense is “garbage.”

“He’s a big guy, he’s a good runner, but we didn’t get blocks,” Shazier said of Blount’s performance and Pittsburgh’s response. “We didn’t make tackles. Everyone is responsible. We have to hold each other accountable. We have to make sure we can be the defense we can be. Right now, we’re looking like garbage. This is terrible right now.”

It was the second straight game where an opposing running back finished with at least 120 yards against Pittsburgh.

“We’re normally known for stopping the run, but, if teams feel like they can get 100 or 200 yards rushing on us every game, they’re going to continue to run,” Shazier said. “If we keep playing like this, they’re going to keep doing this. We have to make sure when we come back we’re going to force them to stop running the ball and do whatever we want them to do.

“Right now, they can do whatever they want to do. and that’s going to hurt us. We’re going to continue to lose if that happens.”

Read More: LeGarrette Blount, Ryan Shazier,
What to do with Stephen Gostkowski? 5 examples where patience paid dividends with a veteran kicker 10.24.16 at 1:47 pm ET
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Stephen Gostkowski has struggled this season. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Stephen Gostkowski has struggled this season. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Stephen Gostkowski is in a slump.

The veteran kicker, who has been so dependable over such an extended period of time for New England, has missed three field-goal attempts and a pair of extra-points this season. Despite the fact that he’s been one of the most accurate field goal kickers in the league over the last decade, the misses this season, combined with a botched extra-point in last year’s AFC title game, have sparked some concern among New Englanders.

“I stink right now,” Gostkowski told reporters after Sunday’s win over the Steelers, a game where he missed an extra-point attempt. “That’s just the bottom line.”

For what it’s worth, Bill Belichick doesn’t sound like a guy who is ready to move on from his kicker.

“Nobody works harder than Steve. Steve’s a very talented player. He’s mentally tough,” Belichick said after the game. “We’ll work through it. [Pittsburgh] is a tough place to kick. I’m not making any excuses, but the kicker on the other side of the field had trouble too. But we have to have to make them.”

“I just think you show support and encouragement,” quarterback Tom Brady said of Gostkowski on WEEI Monday morning. “He’s a great kicker. He’ll find his rhythm. I don’t think anyone is really worried about that. He’s one of the best kickers that has ever played the game. I have 100 percent confidence he will find his rhythm.”

The 32-year-old Gostkowski has been a big part of New England’s success over the last decade. The former college baseball pitcher is a two-time All-Pro who is the third-most accurate kicker in the recent NFL history. Of course, there’s a flip side to that sort of consistency, as even the slightest bump will raise eyebrows.

The bottom line? Because of his past, Gostkowski is held to a higher standard than most kickers. This is a guy who has dealt with pressure since he first arrived in Foxboro and was anointed as the successor to You Know Who. (A guy who had struggles of his own, for what it’s worth.) He’s self-aware enough to understand the reality of the situation.

So what to do? Setting aside the obvious financial ramifications of cutting one of the highest-paid kickers in the game, history says there’s something to be said for letting the situation play out. There are plenty of kickers who have hit a slump a few years into their career, figured out their problems, and managed to come back strong. Here are five examples of veteran kickers who have stumbled but rebounded:

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Read More: Jason Hansen, Justin Tucker, Matt Stover, Ryan Longwell
Poll: Who was Patriots’ MVP in Sunday’s win over Steelers? 10.23.16 at 7:43 pm ET
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Who was the MVP of Sunday's win over the Steelers?

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3 up, 3 down following Patriots 27-16 win over Steelers 10.23.16 at 7:39 pm ET
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LeGarrette Blount

LeGarrette Blount

At first glance, here’s a quick look at who’s up and who’s down for the Patriots after their win over the Steelers Sunday in Pittsburgh.

3 UP
Running back LeGarrette Blount: The big running back returned to face his old team, and ran with a purpose for much of the afternoon. He finished with two touchdowns while adding 24 carries for 127 yards. It was the 13th career 100-yard game for Blount.

Quarterback Tom Brady: The veteran was sizzling out of the gate, connecting on his first nine passes without an incompletion. He wasn’t as hot the rest of the way — he finished 19-for-26 for 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns — but it was still good enough to lead the New England offense to another strong outing.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski: It took a while to get him cranked up — he wasn’t targeted on New England’s first scoring drive — but Gronkowski finished with four catches for 93 yards and a third-quarter touchdown. His touchdown allowed him to tie Stanley Morgan for the team’s all-time touchdown reception mark.

Running back Brandon Bolden: The backup back and special teams ace dropped a pass that would have gone for a first down. In addition, he committed a special teams gaffe that meant a punt that would have been downed inside the Pittsburgh 5-yard line was a touchback instead.

Cornerback Eric Rowe: He was in coverage on the Steelers first touchdown, a ball that as lofted by Pittsburgh quarterback Landry Jones for Darrius Hayward-Bey that made it 14-7. He got turned around on the play.

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski: The veteran missed his second extra-point attempt of the season. (You could also put Julian Edelman here, as he had a bad drop on a pass play that would have gone for a first down — a play that was later negated by a penalty — and he later muffed a punt.)

Read More: Brandon Bolden, Eric Rowe, LeGarrette Blount, Stephen Gostkowski
Halftime analysis: Patriots hold early lead on Steelers 10.23.16 at 5:55 pm ET
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After two quarters in Pittsburgh, the Patriots hold a 14-10 lead on the Steelers.

Tom Brady is 13-for-18 for 123 yards and one touchdown. (Brady completed his first nine passes of the day, gong 9-for-9 for 90 yards and a touchdown out of the gate.) LeGarrette Blount has 13 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown, while Julian Edelman had seven catches on eight targets for 53 yards and James White had two catches for 32 yards and a touchdown.

On the other side of the ball, Landry Jones is 14-for-20 for 179 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

The Steelers caught an early break when they were able to force an early turnover on New England’s first offensive play from scrimmage. That’s when Jarvis Jones stripped the ball out from Chris Hogan after a completed pass, and ended up coming away with the fumble. But the Patriots were able to flip the script a couple of players later when, in Pittsburgh’s first red-zone trip of the day, Malcolm Butler was able to pick off Jones on a pass play for the end zone. A great sign for a defense that came into the game as one of the worst in the league when it came to the red zone.

New England turned it around with an impressive 13-play drive that ended with a Brady-to-White touchdown pass that went for 19 yards and gave the Patriots a 7-0 lead near the end of the first quarter. In terms of plays, it tied for the longest drive of the season for New England. It was also an interesting series because Brady didn’t target Rob Gronkowski or Martellus Bennett at all over the course of the drive.

Brady and the Patriots kept rolling on the next offensive series, an 11-play, 84-yard sequence that took 4:46 and ended with a three-yard touchdown run for Blount, his seventh rushing touchdown of the year. (The first target for a tight end came on this drive, a 13-yard pass to Gronkowski.)

The Steelers got on the board midway through the second quarter when Jones powered Pittsburgh to the end zone with a quick five-play sequence that included a 51-yard pass play from Jones to Antonio Brown. It was the longest pass play of the season allowed by the New England defense on the season. The drive was capped off by a 14-yard pass play from Jones to veteran receiver Darius Hayward-Bey with just over nine minutes to go before the half to make it 14-7. It was the first red-zone touchdown of the day allowed by the Patriots.

Pittsburgh’s next drive started with a lousy punt from Ryan Allen and a 15-yard penalty on Dont’a Hightpwer for a late hit, but a missed 42-yard field goal allowed New England to escape. The Patriots couldn’t cash in — they made it into Steelers’ territory, but Edelman had a bad drop. Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell redeemed himself with a 32-yarder to close out the scoring at the end of the first half.

Good conditions for Patriots-Steelers Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh 10.22.16 at 10:26 pm ET
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According to Sarah Wroblewski of Fox 25, it should be good football weather Sunday when the Patriots meet the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

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