FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots are flying high at 5-1 entering Sunday’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but their kicker remains mired in the worst slump of his career.
Once the most reliable boot in the NFL, Stephen Gostkowski has struggled mightily with his accuracy this season.
Gostkowski’s 75 percent field-goal success rate is tied for 22nd in the league, and he missed just the second extra point of his career in Sunday’s 35-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. His first, of course, came in last season’s AFC Championship Game.
Including the shanked extra point, the most NFL’s most accurate kicker from 2013 to 2016 has missed a kick in four of New England’s six games this season.
So, is it time for Patriots fans to start worrying that perhaps Gostkowski’s best days are behind him? Matthew Slater doesn’t believe so.
The Patriots’ special teams captain on Wednesday expressed confidence that Gostkowski soon will find a way out of his current funk.
“I don’t think really much needs to be said to Stephen,” Slater said. “He’s been doing this for a long time at a very high level. You play football for long enough, and there are going to be ups and downs. I know we’re accustomed to, around here just in general with the Patriots, there being a lot more ups than downs. But that’s part of football.
“Stephen, I don’t need to give him a big pep talk or anything like that. I know that he’ll be OK.”
Thus far, Gostkowski’s issues haven’t come back to bite the Patriots, whose one loss this season came by more than two touchdowns. It also should be noted that Gostkowski is a key part of New England’s fantastic kickoff coverage team, which has been among the NFL’s best through six weeks.
But come playoff time, an unreliable kicker can cripple a contender. For the Patriots’ sake, Gostkowski had best find his groove before then.
Thumbnail photo via Scott R. Galvin/USA TODAY Sports Images