Patriots

Gostkowski credits 'faith in the process' after bounce-back game vs. Rams

Gostkowski credits 'faith in the process' after bounce-back game vs. Rams

FOXBORO -- With four games remaining on the schedule, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski has reached career-highs that he wishes he hasn't: Four missed field goals, three missed extra points. In Weeks 11 and 12, he missed one of each. 

But after making all six of his kicks in Sunday's 26-10 win over the Rams, Gostkowski called his latest performance "a start," as in a step in the right direction. 

PATRIOTS 26, RAMS 10

"Every week is a different challenge," he said. "You just gotta battle. Keep your head down, stay humble, show up and control your attitude and your effort, make sure both of those are good, and have faith in the process that what you've been doing is going to continue to work."

Gostkowski drilled both of his extra-point attempts in the first half, and when the Patriots offense stalled later in the game -- it finished 4-for-16 on third down -- he bailed it out with his right foot. 

He made a 48-yarder from the right hash, a 45-yarder from the left hash and a 45-yarder from the right hash on consecutive series that stretched from the third quarter and into the fourth. It was a series that all but put to rest questions about whether or not the placement of the football and his angle into kicks was giving him trouble of late.

Against the 49ers, after missing a point-after attempt, he moved all of his extra-point attempts from the middle of the field to the inside of the left hash. Against the Jets his lone miss came from the right hash.

Gostkowski acknowledged that he's been tinkering in recent weeks, but he explained that it's something he's done since joining the Patriots.

"You fine tune every week," he said. "When you play in New England, you could have cold weather, hot weather, windy weather, snow. It's a daily change out there. It's not a climate controled environment. You're fine-tuning every day . . . You're going to go through that during a long season. It's no different than any other season I've had." 

When asked if it was safe to assume that his confidence had waivered at points this season, the 11-year veteran indicated that it wasn't so much a confidence issue as it was a perfectionist's approach that led to frustration when the misses mounted.

"In athletics, I've gone through ups and downs my whole life," he said. "I've always had my confidence when it comes to athletics. Sometimes stubborn to a fault. As long as I'm out there, running out there and getting a chance to play, I expect to do well. No one's harder on themselves than me when I do bad, and I don't plan on changing anytime soon."

With Rob Gronkowski out for the season, the margin for error for everyone on the Patriots has shrunk. That doesn't exclude Gronkowski's teammates in the kicking game, and Gostkowski in particular, who will be depended upon to convert drives stopped short into points. Sunday's outing was a reminder of what Gostkowski can do, and an indication that as his team comes down the stretch of the regular season, he's getting right.  

"Every year's different challenges, different opportunities," he said. "You're only as good as your opportunities in this game. You're lucky to get some good opportunities. You don't get a lot of second chances. That's just part of the job. You know that going in. It's a mental and physical grind week in and week out to do well. I'm not going to change the way that I am competitively win, lose or draw."

What happened Sunday in Jacksonville won't happen again

What happened Sunday in Jacksonville won't happen again

Sunday was bad. Really bad. Did it signal a sea change in the AFC -- an AFsea change, if you will?

Probably not. 

Here's the logic: As you've probably been reminded roughly 7,000 times since the Jaguars wrapped up their 31-20 win over the Patriots Sunday evening, Bill Belichick teams get better over the course of the year. They have at least one bad early season loss, then the defense gets better over time to the point where it's good enough in the Super Bowl, provided you don't sit the star cornerback. 

For as troubling as Sunday looked, you can be confident enough in that improvement happening again to the point where the defense will look a heck of a lot better if and when these teams meet in the playoffs. 

What you can't be as confident in is that Blake Bortles will do that again. 

Bortles is fine. He's not great, and that gets him a lot of attention because a lot of other parts of that team are. On Sunday, the only time the Patriots touched him was when they seemingly put a gold jacket on him at the end of the first half. When all was said and done, the fifth-year QB had gone for 377 yards with four touchdowns and a pick. 

There are a lot of takeaways you can have from that game, most of which are probably about the defense being pretty bad right now. "Oh shoot, Blake Bortles is actually awesome!" isn't one of them. That's because he's been in the league long enough for him to establish what he is. Unless there's some sort of Eli Manning phenomenon going on here -- which should still bewilder people to this day -- Patriots fans should still feel pretty confident against the Jaguars, for now. 

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The "pretty" and the "for now" are important there because this is a team that still almost beat you once without Bortles being great. He was good in that AFC Championship -- 23 of 36 for 293 with a touchdown and no picks -- but his impact on that contest would fall under the "didn't lose the game for them, but wasn't exactly dominant" category. 

And that's common enough. Even with how important the quarterback position is, you need to be truly horrible to actually be incapable of winning on a good team. "Meh" QBs have won, and Bortles is more "meh" than horrible. 

As for the "for now," if that team is ever above average at quarterback while adding weapons and maintaining what they are on defense, they'd seemingly be favorites in a conference that's looking for someone to establish themselves as the Patriots wind down. If this group doesn't prove to be a flash in the pan and adds the necessary pieces, it's plausible that they could become the class of the AFC. 

But they're not there yet, at least as it relates to this season. Because Tom Brady's still there and the Patriots defense will get better. It always does because that's what Bill Belichick teams do. 

If we're going to look at the history there, we've also got to look at the history everywhere else. To expect Bortles to become the player he was Sunday would be a leap. Here's betting New England's defense will be better the next time these teams see each other, and the mythical figure that torched them Sunday will be nowhere to be seen. 

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Belichick still won't say Gordon trade is finished

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File photo

Belichick still won't say Gordon trade is finished

The Patriots have announced the trade, and even pieced together an Instagram post of Tom Brady throwing to Josh Gordon. The Browns have announced the trade.

But none of that, apparently, is good enough for Bill Belichick:

And hypothetical questions on today's conference call about possibly bringing aboard a player with Gordon's baggage, and how that would work? Nope, not going there either.

At least offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had a little something to say about a trade that everyone except Belichick acknowledges has been completed: