I admit from the outset on this, in the pre-season, when coach Bill Belichick was having a “tryout” at punter between the incumbent Zoltan Mesko and rookie Ryan Allen, I shook my head and wondered to myself, “Why not Stephen Gostkowski?” Last year, Gostkowski’s field goal percentage was among the lowest of his career at just 82.9%, even though he had his second highest point total (153), primarily assisted by 66 extra points. His biggest issue in 2012 came in field goals from 30-49 yards out, the most common yardage range a kicker in the NFL will come across, where Gostkowski went 19 for 25. Those were Gostkowski’s only misses that year.
In comparison, Gostkowski missed a total of only three field goals this season. His percentage went up nearly a full 10% (82.9% in 2012, 92.7% in 2013), and included an impressive 24 for 26 in that 30-49 yard range he struggled with in 2012. His other lone miss came from 50+ range, a slightly more common ground for kickers missing field goals. Gostkowski had the type of season every team/fan wants from their kicker, one where you don’t remember him too much.
With that being said, bring up Gostkowski, and diehard fans may bring up the one moment he’d rather forget this year. In Week 15, the Patriots had just scored a touchdown in Miami to take a 20-17 lead in the 4th quarter, when Gostkowski kicked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, giving the Dolphins the ball at their own 40. Miami would use the short field to score the game-winning touchdown. That game turned out to be a backbreaker, as the Patriots missed home field advantage by one game and had to travel to Denver for the AFC championship game last Sunday.
Either way, the Patriots have more faith than ever in their kicking game after a very quiet, very efficient season from Stephen Gostkowski.