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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,
What to do with Stephen Gostkowski? 5 examples where patience paid dividends with a veteran kicker 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
Bill Belichick explains in great detail how his coaching staff will be there for Stephen Gostkowski at 11:33 am ET
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Stephen Gostkowski

Stephen Gostkowski

When Bill Belichick says he has faith in Stephen Gostkowski to “work through” his struggles, the Patriots coach is going to offer more than just moral support.

Belichick was asked about his kicker again on Monday in a conference call with reporters. Belichick was asked how much special teams coaching support there is with the Patriots. Starting with special teams coordinator Joe Judge, Belichick made it clear that Gostkowski is not in the battle alone.

“I can’t speak for other teams. I think Joe’s very knowledgable about the techniques of kicking,” Belichick said. “I know when I became a special teams coach and coached special teams for many years as an assistant coach, and I continue to be involve with it as a head coach, that’s one of the things I had to learn. I had to learn how to coach those individual specialists, the snappers, the kickers, the punters, the returners. I don’t think it’s any different than coaching any other position. Things you don’t know, you need to learn. The things you do know, you need to be able to teach to the players, however you acquire that information.”

Belichick then recalled how he’s had the chance to learn how to coach different positions from some of the greatest to play.

“Some of that certainly comes from the players, especially when you coach good players at the position that you’re coaching, you can learn a lot from them, just like I learned a lot from many of the players that I coached. Going back to people like Dave Jennings as a punts or Carl Banks or Lawrence Taylor or Pepper [Johnson], guys like that, as linebackers with the Giants. However you acquire that information, you acquire it and you have to be able to convey it and teach it to the players and recognize technique or judgment.
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Joe Judge, New England Patriots, Ray Ventrone
Stephen Gostkowski on another missed PAT: ‘Right now, I stink’ 10.23.16 at 9:34 pm ET
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Oct 23, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA;  New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski (3) kicks off against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter at Heinz Field. New England won 27-16. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Gostkowski, shown here kicking off, missed another extra point Sunday in Pittsburgh. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

PITTSBURGH — It’s so bad, even Stephen Gostkowski knows the questions are coming.

Gostkowski stood at his locker after Sunday’s 27-16 win in Pittsburgh and nodded as reporters gathered around.

There was only one reason for the media to be there after a game in which he didn’t attempt a single field goal. Gostkowski missed an extra point for the second straight week after not having missed a regular season extra point in nine years.

“Right now, I stink,” Gostkowski admitted.

Gostkowski pushed his extra point wide right after New England’s third touchdown in the third quarter.

Gostkowski, of course, is the same player who kicked three field goals and pinned the Cardinals back in their own territory in a 23-21 win at Arizona in the season opener. That work earned him the first AFC special teams player of the week honor of the season.

Bill Belichick continues to express confidence that whatever Gostkowski is working through in his mechanics and his mindset.

“We’ll work through it,” Belichick said. “Nobody works harder than Steve. Steve’s a very talented player. He’s mentally tough. He’s a good football player. Again, this is a tough place to kick. I’m not making any excuses. The kicker on the other side of the field had trouble too, but we have to hit them.”

Going back to the AFC championship in Denver, Gostkowski has now missed three extra points in his last seven games. Gostkowski is 19-for-21 on extra points and 9-for-12 in field goals this season.

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, PAT, Pittsburgh Steelers
3 up, 3 down following Patriots 27-16 win over Steelers 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
3 up, 3 down following Patriots 35-17 win over Cincinnati 10.16.16 at 5:52 pm ET
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Dont'a Hightower

Dont’a Hightower

FOXBORO — Three up and three down in the wake of Sunday’s 35-17 win over the Bengals.

3 UP

Dont’a Hightower: The linebacker was absolutely transcendent at times against the Bengals, controlling the action from start to finish and making several huge plays. He had 13 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit. His second-half safety changed the complexion of the game. (Elandon Roberts also performed very well next to Hightower for large potions of the day.)

Rob Gronkowski: Seven catches on nine targets for a career-high 162 yards and a touchdown. We should all perform so well when we have a stomach flu,

Tom Brady: His return to Gillette Stadium started slowly, but the quarterback was in control of most of the second half. He finished the second half against the Bengals 17-for-19 with 240 yards and two touchdowns. In all, he was 29-for-35 for 376 yards with three touchdowns, no picks and a passer rating of 140.


Logan Ryan: We’ll have to take a closer look at the film, but at first glance, it was a rough patch for the cornerback, who struggled in coverage. He ended with four tackles and a quarterback hit.

Stephen Gostkowski: The kicker hit field goals from 46 and 31 yards, but a missed extra point in the second half will cause more questions from critics. After the ensuing kickoff, he could be seen on the sidelines angrily firing his helmet away and slamming his first on the bench.

The Patriots were relatively disciplined in the early going, but appeared to be goaded into some bad penalties in the second half, including a questionable 15-yarder on Gronkowski for jawing with Cincy’s Vontaze Burfict. The tight end said he was just ‘bobbing” his head, but the bottom line is that he can’t get drawn into situations like that.

Read More: Dont'a Hightower, Logan Ryan, Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski
Scouting Report: What you have to know about Bengals-Patriots 10.15.16 at 11:30 am ET
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Tom Brady and Martellus Bennett have the Patriots holding firm at the No. 2 spot. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady and Martellus Bennett have developed an impressive chemistry in a short time. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Patriots-Bengals contest, set for 1 p.m. at Gillette Stadium:


As expected, LeGarrette Blount — who was one of the top rushers in the league over the first four weeks of the 2016 season — saw his workload cut pretty dramatically last week against the Browns. Part of that was matchup-based, as New England held a sizable edge when it came to its passing game against Cleveland. In addition, there was the simple fact that with the return of Tom Brady, the Patriots were going to go back to a pass-first offense. While Blount’s production will change now that Brady is back under center, his important work will likely come in the second half of games when New England holds a lead. The bottom line is that while Blount’s total yardage won’t matter, but when he gets those yards will really tell the story. Anyway, he comes into this game with 106 carries, 389 yards and five touchdowns. The Bengals are middle of the pack when it comes to defending the run, having yielded at least 120 rushing yards in three of their first five games, including a whopping 180 yards on the ground last week against the Cowboys. On the other end of the spectrum, there they also held the Broncos to 52 rushing yards and 62 yards on the ground against the Dolphins. Basically? The very definition of feast or famine. (Overall, it’s averaged out to 114 rushing yards per game allowed, 20th in the NFL.) If you’re the Patriots and can get to an early lead, expect them to try and kill the clock and run the ball in the second half, setting up a potential big day down the stretch for Blount.


This is going to be the matchup that decides it, one way or another. New England welcomed Brady back last week, and his 406 passing yards against the Browns effectively quieted any talk of rust following his four-week layoff. Now, the quarterback gets to take a step up in weight class against the Bengals, a team that’s 11th overall against the pass, having allowed an average of 225 yards per game through the air. This week should be like most others, as Brady will rely on Martellus Bennett (21 catches, 315 yards, 4 TDs), Rob Gronkowski (6 catches, 120 yards), Julian Edelman (24 catches, 231 yards), Chris Hogan (12 catches, 236 yards, 1 TD) and James White (17 catches, 165 yards). All of that is provided Gronkowski is over whatever illness was dogging him on Friday that caused him to miss practice. The Bengals have been OK against the pass — overall, Cincy has allowed an average of 225 passing yards per game, while the Bengals 10 sacks are tied for 17th in the NFL. The one set of numbers that stands out if you’re a Patriots’ fan? Cincy is one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to defending backs in the passing game; per Football Outsiders, the Bengals have allowed 6.6 catches and 43 yards per game against running backs. Maybe a better-than-expected week for White?

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Read More: A.J. Green, Andy Dalton, Bill Belichick, Brandon LaFell
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