If there are two sure things about the New England Patriots since 2006, it’s that quarterback Tom Brady can do almost anything, and that kicker Stephen Gostkowski is one of the best in the business. While Brady has seemingly bounced right back to form after his four-game suspension to start 2016, something’s been just a bit off about Gostkowski through the first six games of 2016. The long-time Patriots kicker has been stellar, specifically over the past three years, but his struggles this season are concerning and confusing.
When looking at the previous seasons, we’ve seen him knock in 91.7 percent of his field goals or better from 2013 to 2015. Even looking back before that, the only time his field goal percentage dropped below 82.9 percent was in 2010 when he played in just eight games, and then during his rookie season when he made 76.9 percent. This year, though? It’s been an entirely different story, as Gostkowski is having his worst statistical season, connecting on just 75 percent of his field goals.
Gostkowski has also done something this season that he hadn’t done since his rookie year, which is missing an extra point. Obviously, moving the extra point back makes a miss here or there less concerning than it was early on in Gostkowski’s career, but the struggles are apparent to this point, so much so that Patriots’ special teams captain had to vouch for the kicker on Wednesday.
It’s a tough thing. I’ve always been an encourager. That’s the way I try to lead. I encourage Stephen,” Slater said following his appearance at the Sarah Greenwood Elementary School in Dorchester as the Patriots and the United Way teamed up for Hometown Huddle. “But Stephen’s a true pro. He’s been doing this a long time. You play in the NFL long enough, there’s going to be a time when things don’t go the way you’re accustomed to them going. That’s all part of it. I’m not overly concerned with it. I know he’s working hard to get things done.”
Guregian notes that the Patriots kicker was widely considered as the best in the NFL after 2014 and 2015, seasons in which he nailed 94.6 percent and 91.7 percent of his field goals. Even still, with Gostkowski missing three kicks through six games, the Patriots have to be at least a little concerned, even if Slater isn’t.
While Slater made it known that the Patriots kicker has his full support, the question is, would that change if Gostkowski missing a kick changed the outcome of a game?
“He’s been the best kicker in the league, one of the best over the last decade. His stats show that, and his consistency shows that,” Slater said. “Now’s not the time to panic. Stephen has my full support. I know he’ll be OK.”
The whole situation with Gostkowski missing kicks would be easier to figure out if he were missing them from 50-plus yards, but he’s missed one from 30-39 yards, one from 40-49 yards and then one from 50-plus. At this point, fans just have to wonder what’s going on with Gostkowski at this point, as nerves or missed kicks haven’t seemed to impact him in the past.
Time will tell, but the Patriots are surely hoping their long-time kicker can figure out the issues and right the ship as 2016 rolls on.