Seahawks kicking emergency shines light on Patriots' contingency plan

Seahawks kicking emergency shines light on Patriots' contingency plan

FOXBORO -- Ryan Allen would never want it to happen. He'll tell you that as many times as you need to hear it. (Almost a half-dozen times in about 10 minutes, if you let him.) But if he ever had to kick because something happened to Stephen Gostkowski, he'd be ready.

"I don't ever get to swing like that anymore, but it'd be super fun to maybe try to knock a couple in one time," Allen said. "Not that I'd ever want that to happen. But I'd be licking my chops for sure. I definitely know how to lock my ankle and swing with that form to kick it somewhat straight."

The topic only came up in the Patriots locker room because of something that'd happened the weekend before.

The Seahawks lost kicker Sebastian Janikowski due to a hamstring injury in the final play of the first half of their Wild Card game against the Cowboys. That would have forced punter Michael Dickson, who grew up playing Australian rules football in Sydney, to place drop-kicks between the uprights for field goals or extra points if the Seahawks wanted to go that route.

Instead, they went for two-point conversions twice (successfully) and went for it on fourth-and-five from the Dallas 39-yard line (successfully) with Janikowski out. Pete Carroll admitted losing his kicker changed everything, including his play-calling philosophy down in Cowboys territory.

"Absolutely. We had to change. We were in a different mode," Carroll said. "We were still ready to kick a field goal if we had to, but we were going to do what we could to avoid that and not make that the issue."

Allen, who holds for Gostkowski's kicks, watched it all play out and wondered why Dickson didn't get an opportunity. It's not as though Allen is out there every day grinding away to make sure he can be effective if called upon in a point-after or field-goal situation. But he's worked on it enough as a pro, and he at least some level of experience -- he served as Oregon State's backup punter and kicker for two years before transferring to Louisiana Tech -- that he's confident he can pick it off the turf and send it flying with some level of accuracy.

"When I was hitting it everyday, I was hitting it good," he said. "I could hit low 50s. I wasn't the extra cannon guy who would go back there and launch it. But 45-in. I got that pattern down to where I could hit a pretty clean, straight ball."

Special teams coach Joe Judge may go to Allen a few times in a year when the team has some extra time and suggest that Allen boot a few through the uprights. Plus, Allen will smash a few every so often on his own just to stay fresh during the downtime that comes with being an NFL specialist.

"It's not an everyday thing," he said. "But every week, every couple weeks, I'll put the tee down and stroke five or 10 from the PAT range."

A fair amount of his work as a kicker also comes from simply messing around with long-snapper Joe Cardona while they wait for Gostkowski to join them on the practice field. They'll play "P-I-G," placing a tee at different spots on the field and calling their shots.

Cardona has hit one from 50 yards away in the Empower Field House, he said, and Allen credits Cardona as probably the third-best leg on the roster.

"The ongoing joke is that he says he can maybe kick better than me," Allen said. "It's actually impressive he can kick as well as he can for being a long-snapper. He's not bad. He's not bad. I'm taking him over most, probably.

"He's like, 'You're gonna hold still because I'm the good kicker and you're the good holder.' I'd tell him, "Nah, nah. If I get my opportunity, you're not coming in. I've been waiting six years.' "

Like Allen, Cardona doesn't want to see anyone other than Gostkowski kicking. But he knows they have to be ready in case that were to ever happen. Part of the trickle-down of that situation would be that, with Allen kicking, the team would need a new holder.

Chris Hogan (in practice), Brian Hoyer and Tom Brady all have some experience as holders, though holding for a left-footed kicker might be a tad different than the other way around.

"That's something we do in OTAs," Allen said. "In OTAs, we'll go through four or five different guys just to see who we got to hold. [Danny Amendola] was doing it. 'Dola has really good hands, you could take any one of those receivers and their hands are so good, in 10 or 15 minutes [they'd be fine]. You'd just tell 'em it doesn't need to be perfect."

"There's always contingency plans," Cardona said. "Guys are tremendously versatile on this team. You see guys plug and play all the time so there's always plan when something like that -- God forbid -- happens. It's just about being prepared."

Allen has never had to sub in for Gostkowski, but Gostkowski has had to sub in for Allen. Back in the 2013 postseason, Allen suffered a shoulder injury when he fell going after a snap that sailed over his head. Gostkowski stepped in and hit two inside the 20-yard line.

“I’ve never punted in a game before," Gostkowski said at the time. "It’s one of those things where you really don’t know how you’re going to do. There are so many different things that go into punting with catching the ball, getting the laces around, and doing it all with the timing. They’ve got guys coming at you and [you have to] get the balls off fast enough. I have decent hands and I was a little worried that it was raining. So I put some gloves on and just tried to catch it and kick it to give the guys a chance . . . It was cool. I had a good time.”

Similarly, if it ever came down to Allen staring down an extra point, there's no doubt he'd enjoy himself.

"Never do I ever want that to happen, but I will say that I used to love kicking," Allen said. "It would be kind of like with Julian [Edelman] playing outside 'backer or cornerback. He tells me all the time those are some of the funnest moments he's ever had playing because it was a different position and it almost felt like being a kid again . . . 


"I know [Gostkowski] had fun [punting]. He used the phrase, 'there's no expectation' because you're the emergency guy. Julian, same thing. It's like, 'Shoot away, dog! No one else can do it better than you can right now so go for it.' "