Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Belichick: Gostkowski all sorts of clutch lately


The New England Patriots' offense hasn't been its reliable self of late, particularly when it comes to building a comfortable lead. All that seems to mean is that kicker Stephen Gostkowski gets a little bit more time in the spotlight.

The eight-year veteran has been calmly putting together his best season yet, a season that's been anything but under the radar. He's nailed 30 of 32 field goals thus far, with the last few coming under some pretty pressure-packed circumstances.

He's had a couple of pretty clutch weeks," coach Bill Belichick told reporters Tuesday, via "I think it would be hard to be much more clutch than that."

From an overtime field goal in some furious wind to beat the Broncos in Week 12, to a pair of 50-yard blasts in the fourth quarter to pull ahead of the Texans the following week, Gostkowski looked to be at the peak of his game coming into last weekend against the Browns.

Two more field goals and a late onside kick conversion later, and the 29-year-old's performance of late can be summed in one word — impressive.

"You get into game-winning situations or onside kick situations – when is the last time we've onside kicked like that? So, it's infrequent but when it comes up, it means everything," Belichick said. "That's really all the more impressive. I think part of it for Steve is just not only did he get it done, but it was a very infrequent play and it was at the most critical time and without it, we wouldn't have won. All those things are impressive."

Gostkowski's 93.8 field goal percentage is currently fourth overall in the league behind Nick Folk, Steven Hauschka and Matt Prater, who have all missed only one attempt thus far. The majority of the vet's kicks have come from 40 yards and beyond, where he's made 13 of 15, missing a 55-yarder against the Texans and a 43-yarder early on this season against the Jets.

Not bad for a guy who was in danger of losing his job in the preseason.

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