By Nick Shook
Read full post on NFL.com
Stephen Gostkowski isn’t himself — at least, not on the football field.
Signs of a potential problem first appeared in the preseason, but hey, it’s just the preseason. Everyone’s working out the kinks.
Now, after two straight weeks that included missed point-after attempts, there is real cause for concern. No one is more aware of this than Gostkowski.
“I’m not happy with the way I’m playing,” Gostkowski said, via CSN New England. “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.”
Switching it up might be what caused the issue in the first place. Chris Wesseling first offered last week that a strategic focus on shortening Gostkowski’s kickoff distance could have changed his mechanics for the worse, causing issues in how he kicks PATs. It’s plausible, seeing as he ranks among the most accurate kickers in NFL history, didn’t miss a PAT until attempt No. 523, and suddenly is struggling to make a 33-yard try.
“I don’t really talk about reasons why I make or miss a kick,” Gostkowski added. “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.”
We now live in a world where we have a sideline kicking expert — former pro Jay Feely — breaking down all things kicking on live television. On Sunday night, two kickers missed chip shots and a game ended in a 6-6 tie — with the only points of the game having been scored by those same two kickers. Point being, kicking is important, and if Feely were to break down Gostkowski’s possible issues, at least a handful of people would tune in.
This could also be the most vicious football-related hangover in years (not looking at you, Panthers), a lasting effect from missing a PAT in the AFC Championship Game in Denver last season. The mental side of kicking is similar to golf, in that it’s very much a battle against oneself, though the snap, hold and blocking are uncontrollable variables. Kickers get the yips. Gostkowski might need a kicker’s retreat — we should make that a thing, and see ifBlair Walsh would be interested — to decompress, get out of his own head and refocus on being historically accurate again.
“I’m not scared to screw up,” Gostkowski explained. “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.”