Patriots

Gostkowski: My confidence will always be high

904991.jpg

Gostkowski: My confidence will always be high

FOXBORO -- The answers weren't in the film. There were no bad snaps or shaky holds.

Try as one might to find a reason for why Stephen Gostkowski has gone into a bit of a slump, the Patriots kicker kept coming up with the same simple response: He has just plain missed.

"It's just a cycle and you go through the ups and downs," Gostkowski said. "You gotta ride the wave. I've got knocked off the board a couple times this year and I'm going to get right back up there, and go out there with confidence and self belief. I've made way more kicks than I've missed in this career. And you see other guys that you respect and think are really good and the same thing happens to them at some point in their career, and it's not the end of the world. It's four games into the year and you just look forward to the next game and the next kick."

Gostkowski missed his first two kicks against the Bills in New England's Week 4 win, 52-28. Though his misses didn't have a negative impact on the game's outcome for the Patriots, they extended the conversation surrounding Gostkowski that began after he missed a game-winning field goal at home against the Cardinals in Week 2.

Why had a guy who had made 84 percent of his kicks in his career missed three of his first 13 this season?

Gostkowski preferred to focus on the positive.

"The kicks I did miss weren't by much," he said. "It's just a little fine-tuning. My leg strength feels great. I'm crushing the ball in kickoffs. I just gotta pay a little more attention to detail. Things will work out. I've been working hard, I wouldn't change any way that I've prepared, I just gotta focus and execute better."

Gostkowski went on to make his third field goal attempt of the Bills game -- a 30-yarder in the fourth quarter -- but he said he was still fuming afterwards because of his misses.

"I'm pissed off no matter what after that game," Gostkowski said. "Even if I'd made seven field goals after that. I'm always hard on myself, but I also keep a good perspective and I move on. If I wasn't working hard and I wasn't giving it my all and I hadn't had success before, maybe I could look back and say I wish I'd have done something different. That's not the case. I feel good with the way I came in this season and I'm just gonna keep the same approach and keep kicking and that's all I can do."

Earlier this week coach Bill Belichick threw his support behind Gostkowski, who is in his seventh year with the Patriots and has the ninth-best field goal percentage in the history of the league.

"Steve, again, had some real good plays (Sunday)," Belichick said. "Again, thats an operation that involves more than one guy. Its not a pitcher taking the ball on the mound or a golfer teeing a ball up. Its a snap, a hold, a kick -- a whole process. Well keep working hard at it."

Gostkowski was asked about that three-man operation -- Danny Aiken is the team's long-snapper, while punter Zoltan Mesko holds for field goals -- and how it was functioning.

"It's good," he said simply.

All of Gostkowski's misses have been from beyond 40 yards. Though they were kicks he expects to make, they weren't chip shots. And until his miss as time wound down against the Cardinals, Gostkowski's Week 2 performance may have been the best of his career as he knocked down kicks from 46, 34, 51 and 53 yards so his physical skills certainly aren't waning. Just look at his kickoffs -- he's second in the league with 18 touchbacks.

But where does he go from here? What does he do to get back to looking like one of the league's most reliable kickers?

"Just go back to work," Gostkowski said. "Focus a little harder. It's not that I'm not kicking enough, I'm kicking plenty. It's not that I'm not practicing good. I'm practicing very good. It's just a matter of execution. I just have to do a better job of executing. I've been here before. I've missed two kicks in a row maybe twice in my career, but it has happened. Missed big kicks in my career going back to high school and I've moved on from that. There's no reason why I don't think that I could run off 10 or 15 in a row."

Gostkowski will have until Sunday before he has a chance to get on a roll, but he can deal with the wait. As a college baseball pitcher at the University of Memphis, he was used to playing and then having to live with the result until taking the mound again a week later.

Just as it was then from start to start, what happened last week is behind him, and he says he is ready -- physically and mentally -- to do his job against the Broncos.

"My confidence will always be high," Gostkowski said. "I've been doing this for so long and I've had so many ups and downs. Things have a way of working themselves out whether good or bad. I don't worry about things I can't control, I just control how hard I work and how hard I concentrate."

Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

falcons_seahawks_matt_ryan_112017.jpg

Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

SEATTLE - Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons did enough through 3 1/2 quarters that even the best comeback attempt by Russell Wilson fell short this time.

A couple of yards short to be exact.

Ryan threw a pair of touchdown passes, Adrian Clayborn returned a fumble 10 yards for a score and the Falcons watched Blair Walsh's 52-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds fall short, holding off the Seattle Seahawks for a 34-31 win on Monday night.

Atlanta won its second straight to stay on the heels of New Orleans and Carolina in the NFC South, and handed Seattle a second consecutive home loss.

"What an absolute team win from the guys tonight," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. "Coming here, in this environment, with the crowd, we thought it would be two competitive, tough teams that were going to battle for it in the biggest way."

Ryan threw TDs to Mohamed Sanu and Levine Toilolo, while Tevin Coleman added a 1-yard TD run on Atlanta's opening possession.

But it was Clayborn's fumble return that helped break the game open early in the second quarter and gave Atlanta a 21-7 lead. He scooped up a loose ball after Wilson was crunched by Takk McKinley and Courtney Upshaw.

"I think we're moving in the right direction. We keep proving we can finish games and beat guys. We have to take the momentum and keep rolling with it," Clayborn said.

With Seattle down 11 points, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin on a 29-yard TD with 3 minutes left and then threw to Jimmy Graham for the two-point conversion. Seattle got the ball back and moved in range for Walsh, whose attempt was on line but landed short of the crossbar.

"That was in our range, and in hindsight I would have just driven it more," Walsh said. "I would have driven it more and not left it short. I was too accurate and didn't have enough on it."

Wilson again was the entirety of Seattle's offense, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns, and running for another 86 yards and a TD.

But it was an awful night for the Seahawks, filled with more injuries and questionable decisions by coach Pete Carroll. He called for a fake field goal late in the first half rather than attempting a 35-yard kick. He also made a questionable challenge in the fourth quarter that didn't go his way and left Seattle with just one timeout.

That lack of timeouts came back to haunt Seattle on the final drive when seconds ticked away and rather than running one more play, Walsh was sent out to attempt the 52-yard kick. His long for the season is 49 yards.

The conclusion only amplified Carroll's baffling decision at the end of the first half, when Seattle ran a fake field goal rather than having Walsh attempt a 35-yarder that would have pulled Seattle within 24-20. Holder Jon Ryan completed his shovel pass to Luke Willson, but Grady Jarrett read the play and tackled Willson for a 4-yard loss.

Willson said Atlanta's defense on the play was different than what Seattle had seen on film.

"It would have been a really good call if we had made it," Carroll said. "Terrific opportunity right where we wanted it and the defensive tackle made a better play."

Seattle played a game for the first time since the end of the 2010 season without Richard Sherman. His streak of 99 consecutive starts in the regular season was snapped because of a torn Achilles tendon suffered against Arizona. The Seahawks were also without safety Kam Chancellor because of a neck injury, leaving their vaunted secondary with several new faces.

"Those two are phenomenal players. ... It was a lot different," Sanu said. "They did a lot of different things but we just had to take advantage of our routes."

MATTY ICE

Ryan was more than happy to pick on a defense without Sherman and Chancellor. He was 19 of 27 passing for 195 yards and rarely faced pressure. Seattle had one sack, and the Falcons went 9 of 14 on third-down conversions.

Sanu made a great one-handed grab for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Ryan found Toilolo on a 25-yard TD in the third quarter to give Atlanta a 31-20 lead. Matt Bryant added a 19-yard field goal with 3:49 left to put the Falcons ahead by 11, and Wilson's late heroics weren't enough.

Ryan's streak of 64 straight games passing for at least 200 yards was snapped.

INJURIES

Seattle's injury woes continued. The Seahawks lost rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin to a concussion on the second play of the game, forcing newly signed veteran Byron Maxwell into a more prominent role than expected.

Early in the second half, promising running back Mike Davis was lost to a groin injury after taking a screen pass 21 yards. Davis had two receptions and had carried six times for 18 yards before getting hurt. Seattle also lost starting guard Oday Aboushi in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.

Atlanta got a scare when safety Keanu Neal was checked for a concussion in the first half. He was cleared to return.

UP NEXT

Falcons: Host Tampa Bay on Sunday to open a three-game homestand.

Seahawks: Travel to division foe San Francisco on Sunday.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

EX-PATS PODCAST: How Belichick the perfectionist will find flaws in win vs. Raiders

ex-pats-podcast17.png

EX-PATS PODCAST: How Belichick the perfectionist will find flaws in win vs. Raiders

0:55 - Patriots playing great as they stream roll the Raiders but Koppen explains that Belichick will knock them down as he strives for perfection. Also talk about how it takes a couple months into the season for the coaches and players to learn each other again.

5:40 - Stephon Gilmore playing excellent lined up against Michael Crabtree. Malcolm Butler bounces back but gives up the only score to Amari Cooper. Koppen suggest Butler’s contract situation might be affecting his play. 

7:50 - All in on the Patriots defense yet? Giardi and Koppen discuss the defensive play and the upcoming offenses the Patriots will be facing.

10:30 - Dan Koppen talks about job security in the NFL and if he ever worried about somebody else taking his job, and the cutthroat nature of the Patriots. 

13:50 - Tom Brady picking apart the Raiders and Jack Del Rio’s defenses throughout his career. 

17:45 - A debate about Patriots backup quarterbacks and if Matt Cassel was actually a good NFL QB. 

21:20 - A few game notes: Rex Burkhead’s fumble vs. the Raiders, LaAdrian Waddle filling in for Marcus Cannon.