New England

Should the Patriots Move on From Gostkowski After Kicker's Bad Day?

"It was pretty terrible on my part," Gostkowski said after missing a 48-yard field goal and two 33-yard extra points

Rarely will you find a glaring weakness in a 43-0 victory.

"I think there's certainly room for improvement," Bill Belichick told reporters with a straight face after Sunday's thumping of the Miami Dolphins.

Sure, the Patriots will need to refine some things between now and Super Bowl LIV, but the only thing that stood out as a negative at Hard Rock Stadium was the play of kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

"It was pretty terrible on my part," Gostkowski said after missing a 48-yard field goal and two 33-yard extra points. "Today just sucked."

It was a horrible day for Gostkowski, who missed three kicks in a single game for the first time in his 14-year career.

Should New England finally move on from Gostkowski?

Not so fast.

Take a look at the rest of the kicking landscape in the NFL. Only 10 of the league's 32 kickers are still perfect — on both field goal attempts and extra points — on the season through two weeks.

Take a look at how hard it is to find the right guy. The Vikings gave up a fifth-round pick to acquire Kaare Vedvik — who also punts — from the Ravens in training camp, only to cut him loose after he missed three out of four field goal attempts in the preseason.

Minnesota stuck with Dan Bailey, who missed both a 47-yard field goal and extra point in Sunday's 21-16 loss to the Packers. The Vikings are still recovering from Blair Walsh's shank from 27 yards out in the 2015 NFC wild card playoffs.

Unable to help themselves, the Jets brought in Vedvik after his release from the Vikings. Vedvik missed both of his kicks, a 45-yard field goal attempt and an extra point in Week 1.

The beat goes on. Robbie Gould has already missed two field goals for the 49ers. Matt Prater has missed both a field goal and PAT for the Lions. Ty Long and Randy Bullock have missed a pair of field goals apiece for the Chargers and Bengals, respectively.

Gostkowski's latest slump is popping up at an interesting time, given the struggles of Adam Vinatieri through two weeks with the Colts.

Vinatieri, 46, is Gostkowski's predecessor in New England, of course, and it appears as though the end of the road is fast approaching for the surefire Hall of Famer after two missed field goals and three missed extra points through two games for Indy.

Vinatieri created an impossible standard to follow for Gostkowski with his performance in the 2001 postseason, much like Jarrett Stidham (or anybody) is going to have a hard time living up to the bar set by Tom Brady.

The thing is, while Vinatieri's kicks vs. Oakland and St. Louis are the stuff of legend, Gostkowski has actually been better than Vinatieri with the Patriots. Gostkowski is the third-most accurate kicker in league history, connecting on 87.3% of his field goal attempts since New England drafted him in the fourth round in 2006. Vinatieri kicked at 81.9% for his career with the Patriots and sits 16th on the all-time list at 84.1% overall.

In the postseason, it's advantage Gostkowski as well. Gostkowski is an 88.6% kicker in the playoffs, while Vinatieri sits at 81.2%.

How quickly people forget that Vinatieri missed two field goals in New England's Super Bowl XXXVIII victory over Carolina.

The Patriots didn't make a reactionary call and move on from Vinatieri after they beat the Panthers thanks in part to his 41-yard field goal with 8 seconds left, instead hanging onto him for two more years before letting him walk as a free agent.

There've been smaller coincidences than Peyton Manning finally winning a Super Bowl with the Colts once Vinatieri replaced Mike Vanderjagt, a great example of a good kicker who'd finally passed the point of no return when he missed a 46-yard field goal for Indy in the AFC divisional playoffs that would have sent the game to overtime with Pittsburgh.

Gostkowski isn't at that point yet. Yes, he's missed a kick in each of the last four season finales for New England (the 2015 AFC Championship Game and Super Bowls LI-LIII), but none of his misses have single-handedly cost the Patriots the game.

"As we know, the field goal operation is really a full-team play," Belichick said on Monday. "It's not just one guy, but the most important player is the kicker in that particular play."

New England could do far, far worse than having Gostkowski be that most important player. The Patriots have cut players such as Doug Gabriel (fumble vs. Jets in 2006) or Chris Harper (muffed punt vs. Broncos in 2015) over a single mistake, but neither had a sustained track record of success to back them up like Gostkowski.

Get used to picking nits for New England over the next several weeks, because its schedule remains hot garbage until November rolls around. By which point Gostkowski will have undoubtedly righted the ship, and you'll forget that this conversation ever happened.

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