The New England Patriots took part in an ugly contest yesterday against the Buffalo Bills, but they were able to pull it out with a last-second field goal, courtesy of Stephen Gostkowski. Coming into the game, there was plenty of negative talk to go around regarding Gostkowski, and I did my best to assure some of them that Gostkowski is still an elite kicker. He has a booming leg, and, as Mike Reiss noted in his column yesterday morning, Gostkowski is one of the best kickers in the NFL at generating touchbacks. He puts a chokehold on the opponent’s field position, and this greatly aids the Patriots highly-touted special teams coverage. Sometimes I wonder how much Gostkowski benefits the way the coverage team looks, but there’s little doubting the talents of guys like Nate Ebner and Matthew Slater.
I could have easily given the Game Ball to Danny Amendola, Shane Vereen, or maybe even Julian Edelman, but I feel like Stephen Gostkowski really deserves the nod here. I’ve been a huge defender of Gostkowski’s in this space for just about a year, because my defense of Gostkowski started about a year ago with that missed FG against the Arizona Cardinals. Kickers are way too easy of a target when things go wrong, and Gostkowski’s finer moments last season went ignored (like the kicks to send the game into overtime and essentially win the game in OT against the New York Jets).
Gostkowski had himself an incredible game with his family watching him, and it goes beyond that 35-yard field goal. All that did was prove that Gostkowski can handle the big moments. You know how I know he can? Well, it takes a lot of balls to be able to cut the mustard as a kicker in Boston. I mean, I can’t think of fans that would put their kicker on a shorter leash, but Gostkowski has never let that get to him for a significant chunk of time.
What really impressed me about Gostkowski (other than clinching that winning field goal and making all three) was his ability to continue to boot kicks through the end zone. He had five touchbacks on six kick-offs, and that’s a fantastic ratio. Only T.J. Graham had a return, and it went for an insignificant 19 yards. Gostkowski’s 48-yard field goal was also a highlight, and those are not the easiest field goals in the world to nail. Although you can say that Gostkowski was merely doing what he was supposed to do (the whole “Do your job” thing) by making those field goals and kicking those touchbacks, but I just feel like it’s time to give the kicker the nod he deserves after one game. I mean, they deserve some props too.