DENVER — Stephen Gostkowski’s missed extra-point attempt loomed large Sunday in the final minutes of the New England Patriots’ AFC Championship Game loss.
The Patriots trailed by eight points for the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter and had three opportunities to score on the Denver Broncos in the red zone. The Patriots elected to try for touchdowns rather than field goals, though, and when they finally scored with 12 seconds remaining in the game, they were forced to attempt a two-point conversion rather than relying on their usually dependable kicker to tie the score.
“I just feel terrible,” Gostkowski said after his team’s 20-18 loss at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. “These guys work a lot, all day, put their bodies and their lives on the line. To come out here and us lose the game by a point, me missing the kick, it’s a nightmare scenario.
“I can’t really explain how I feel right now. It’s just kind of shock, and I feel I let a lot of people down. It’s not a good feeling.”
To paraphrase “Good Will Hunting”: “Stephen, it’s not your fault.”
The Patriots’ offensive line collapsed as quarterback Tom Brady officially was hit 20 times during the loss. Coach Bill Belichick passing up two field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter led to six lost points, which loomed just as large as the missed extra-point try in the final seconds.
Gostkowski has been a hero for the Patriots numerous times since taking over for Adam Vinatieri in 2006, and he hadn’t missed an extra-point attempt since his rookie season. This one just happened to travel wide right at the worst time.
“It wasn’t a good kick,” said Gostkowski, who had been perfect in the first season with 32-yard PAT attempts. “I’m not one to make excuses. I should have made it. I’ve made hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of those.”
The miss certainly didn’t help, but it came at the end of the first quarter, and the Patriots had multiple chances to recover.
“I feel sorry for myself, but I’m not expecting others to feel sorry for me,” Gostkowski said. “I work hard to be good, and I came up short today. I let a lot of people down today: the guys on our team and the fans. All I can do now is stand up here and take it all on me. I feel like I lost the game for the team, and I should have been out there kicking that tying extra point and helping us go to overtime.”
There are people who feel sorry for Gostkowski, however. Most notably, his teammates.
“One play doesn’t define a game,” wide receiver Julian Edelman said. “There’s plenty of opportunities for us to overcome that. Steve nailed two field goals to keep us in it. It’s never just one play. Steve’s a stud. We love him to death.”
“He’s a great player. He’s the best, so everyone misses them at some point. There was plenty of football left. We knew what the situation was.”
It was impressive for Gostkowski to step up in front of the media and hold himself responsible for the loss, but it came down to a lot more than one extra point for the Patriots to lose to the Broncos. Gostkowski certainly didn’t lose the faith of any of his teammates with the rare miss.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images