Patriots

Stephen Gostkowski: 'Inexcusable' to miss extra point attempt

Stephen Gostkowski: 'Inexcusable' to miss extra point attempt

FOXBORO – Stephen Gostkowski’s been arguably the best kicker in football over the past three seasons. But so far this year, it’s been a struggle. Going into Sunday’s game against the Bengals, Gostkowski had missed three field goals in five games.

How uncommon was that? He’d missed eight in his previous 48 regular-season games, three total misses in both 2013 and 2015 and two in 2014.

Sunday, even though he made a 46-yarder earlier, his missed an extra point in the third quarter after a James White touchdown. He barely squeezed through a 31-yard field goal in the fourth.

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“For me, that’s inexcusable to miss a kick like that,” Gostkowski said of the extra point. "For me, I’ve had a few missed swings this year and I’m just trying to go out there and do my best to tighten it up. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you get unlucky, sometimes you’re just not as good as you need to be. I’m just trying to get to a point where I’m a consistent player on this team. That’s all I work for.”

It’s safe now to call Gostkowski’s start to this season a slump. He just doesn’t miss this often. He knows that.

“Sometimes you just can’t explain how and why things happen,” he said. “At the end of the day, we won. Got the game started off with a nice kick, had some good kickoffs. I just need to focus on the positives instead of dwelling on the negatives. It’s part of the game as a kicker, when you screw up, everybody notices you.”

The miss that may have started this skid could have been in the AFC Championship Game last season at Denver when Gostkowski missed his first extra point since 2006. Sunday, he missed his first regular season PAT since then.

“There’s still time,” he said. “I’ll do my best to straighten ‘em out. That’s the way the cookie crumbles, my man. I’m just happy we’re winning.”

The time will inevitably come when Gostkowski’s called on for a true pressure kick. An end-of-game job that will have folks wringing hands about the outcome until it goes through. Or doesn’t. Such is the life of a kicker.

Tom E. Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: Dissecting the offense with the addition of Antonio Brown

Tom E. Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: Dissecting the offense with the addition of Antonio Brown

1:36 - Tom Curran starts off by asking a simple question: 'What keeps Antonio Brown on this team?' As of now, it's the fact that he's valuable enough on the gridiron, but when will that not be enough?

7:09 - Matt Cassel joins Tom to talk about a variety of topics: Antonio Brown's explosiveness making the Patriots offense look like that of the 2007 team; (14:38) How the offense attacks man vs. zone coverage; (21:41) How to approach Greg Williams' defense next week against the Jets; (27:25) and a pair of Hall of Fame debates.

32:26 - Tom catches up with Kyle Van Noy after his season debut in Miami, talking about the linebacker's newborn son, the dominance of the Patriots defense and how Josh Gordon is getting more comfortable in New England.

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Bill Belichick praises Joe Thuney's versatility amid Patriots' o-line injuries

Bill Belichick praises Joe Thuney's versatility amid Patriots' o-line injuries

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has found several quality offensive lineman in the middle to late rounds of the NFL Draft, and Joe Thuney is one of the best examples.

Thuney has established himself as a key member of the Patriots o-line as the starting left guard for all of his three seasons in New England. The 2016 third-round pick was one of the Patriots' most important players in their Super Bowl LIII victory, where he helped slow down elite Los Angeles Rams pass rusher Aaron Donald.

You cannot explain Thuney's true value without mentioning his versatility. The North Carolina State product is able to play just about every position along the offensive line, and with the Patriots losing both starting tackles to injuries over the last two weeks, Thuney's versatility has become a huge asset for Belichick.

"Very valuable. Somebody has to have versatility on that group," Belichick told reporters Tuesday. "If you take seven linemen to the game, you can't have a backup for every position, so somebody has to move. Either one of your starters has to move or your two backups have to cover all five spots in some combination of that. We need somebody that can do that and Joe's our most versatile lineman on the team, so that is an important role for us to have in terms of maintaining our depth with the group."

The latest blow to the Patriots offensive line came Tuesday, when starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury. He isn't eligible to return for eight weeks. New England also lost starting right tackle Marcus Cannon to a shoulder injury in Week 1, and he missed Sunday's win over the Miami Dolphins.

The Patriots signed free agent offensive linemen Marshall Newhouse and Caleb Benenoch over the last two weeks to bolster their depth, and both of them are options at the tackles spots.

Left tackle is one of the most important positions on the field. This player protects quarterback Tom Brady's blind side and regularly goes up against the league's best pass rushers. Thuney's familiarity with the offense and overall skill set make him a logical fit at left tackle while Wynn is out, and the Patriots could always shift guys around once Newhouse and Benenoch are more comfortable with the playbook.

Replacing a player like Wynn is going to be difficult for the Patriots, but it's nice to have lineman such as Thuney who can fill in at several spots and perform at a high level playing out of position. He's one of the most valuable Patriots players not named Tom Brady.

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