Stephen Gostkowski is one of the most successful kickers in NFL history, and he's currently the higest-paid kicker in the league. He has set a certain standard for himself, and he told reporters on Sunday that he's not reaching it.
Gostkowski spoke to members of the media after missing one of the four extra points he attempted in New England's 27-16 win over Pittsburgh. It was the second consecutive game in which Gostkowski missed a point-after try.
"I'm not happy with the way I'm playing," he said. "Mechanically, I need to be better. Just not playing good enough for this team right now. Keep my head down and keep working. I'm putting the work in. I'm trying the best I can. Need to figure out how to switch it up so I can be more consistent."
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He added: "I don't really talk about reasons why I make or miss a kick. No one knows, nor cares to understand. I stink right now. That's just the bottom line. It'd be nice to be able to enjoy these wins a little more with the team. But it's not about me. The team's played great. Luckily the team keeps picking me up, I guess."
Gostkowski has now missed five kicks on the year, including field goals against the Miami, Buffalo and Cleveland.
"Obviously there's something going on and I'm gonna work my hardest to fix it," he said. "That's all I do. This is my job, I take it seriously. No one feels worse about screwing up than I do. It stinks to come in when you win and that's all you talk about is the one bad play you had. But that's the nature of the position. You deal with it . . .
"I've always held my head high, and I will always go out there with confidence, no matter if I miss 100 in a row so that's just the way I'm put together. I'm gonna keep working hard to do the best. Talk about a few feet here or there, we're not having the conversation. Just gotta tighten it up and be more consistent."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick made it sound as though he was not all that concerned with his All-Pro kicker after the game, and he noted that Steelers kicker Chris Boswell missed two field goals on the afternoon.
"Nobody works harder than Steve does," Belichick said. "Steve's a very talented player. He's mentally tough. He's a good football player. We'll work through it. We'll work through it. Again, this is a tough place to kick. Not making any excuses. Those are kicks that -- I don't know what he expressed -- but the kicker on the other side of the field had trouble too. It's tough, but we gotta make 'em."
Gostkowski was asked if he was at a point with his confidence where he still wanted to take crucial kicks late in games.
"I always want to help the team win," he said. "I'm not scared to screw up. I've screwed up plenty of times in my career. Just kind of piling on right now. At my position, you only get so many opportunities. That's part of it mentally is taking advantage of the opportunities you get. I know that's the deal coming in. It's not like a news flash. This is my eleventh year doing it. Right now I just stink, and I need to figure out how to get better. It's just not working out. Kind of piling on, but I'm gonna hold my head high, keep working hard, keep doing the best I can as long as I keep getting the opportunities."
Gostkowski did not get into any of the mechanical issues he might be dealing with, and he did not explain whether or not he sees a kicking coach to help him with his form. Though this would certainly qualify as one of the most difficult stretches of his professional career -- if not the most difficult -- he said he's dealt with bad spurts of play in the past, and he's hoping to come out of this one soon.
"Being a professional athlete is tough," he said. "When you're doing good or you're doing bad. A position like mine, there's no hiding when you screw up. It's just part of it. You gotta learn to roll with the punches. I've seen guys that have been really good have tough stretches, and I've seen guys come out of them. I mean, I've played bad before. You play long enough, you're going to have stuff like this. Just timing-wise it just kind of stinks. If there was one thing to point to to fix it I would've done it by now. But I need to be better."