FOXBORO, Mass. — Stephen Gostkowski recently said in an interview with The MMQB he believes New England Patriots punter Ryan Allen is the best holder in the NFL.
So, I posed a question to the Gostkowski before Wednesday’s practice: What exactly makes Allen so much better than the other 31 guys holding kicks around the league?
The longtime Patriots kicker offered a thoroughly detailed response.
“There’s a lot of things that go into it that people don’t see,” Gostkowski said. “When you only have a split-second to see the ball, and you expect the ball to be leaning a certain way, the laces pointed a certain way, and if they’re not, it can really affect where the kick goes, for him to put it down as fast as he can to where I can see it as long as I can. And all of it starts with a good snap. All of the snappers have done a great job, and (Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona) has done a great job.
“So, it makes a big difference. I get to the ball pretty fast. You’ve got to get the ball in the air fast enough to where they can’t block it, and the longer you get to see it, the better off you are. If a guy bobbles it or there’s a lot of extra movement or takes a long time getting to the ground, that’s less time you get to see it. And for him to be able to do it every time so seamlessly, or if there happens to be (a time) where the snap doesn’t have the laces out or something like that, he turns it really quick.
“If you have any doubt in your mind that the ball’s not going to be where you think it’s going to be, that can affect the way you attack the ball, and worrying about the snap or the hold is the last thing on my mind. Just knowing that it’s going to be where it is makes my job a ton easier.”
Gostkowski is the second-longest tenured Patriot behind quarterback Tom Brady, but he has been working with Allen since just 2013, when New England signed the punter as an undrafted rookie and he beat out incumbent Zoltan Mesko for a roster spot. Since then, the two specialists have worked daily to build their now-rock-solid rapport, which Gostkowski attributes to a mutual desire for perfection.
“We have a ton of time,” Gostkowski said. “We only do one thing, so it’s just getting the reps in every day, building it up and putting it into practice situations. … For me to trust (Allen) — is he going to have a brain fart once in a while? Is he going to lose focus? Is he going to take it for granted? Holding is very intricate, and it’s part of his job. It’s by no means as hard as punting, but it doesn’t take much as far as a bad hold or a bad snap to make a kick go crazy.
“So, that’s why we all work together, and that’s why we’re all equally excited when we have a successful play. It can take a while. It just depends on how quickly you mesh.
“Some guys have held for other guys who like the ball a certain way. Some don’t pay as (much) attention to detail as we do here, trying to make sure you get everything perfect. That’s what we do here. We strive to get everything to be perfect — knowing that it’s not going to be, but that’s what we work to attain. We just try to be as consistent as we can be.”
Gostkowski isn’t perfect — Patriots fans likely won’t forget his missed extra point in the 2015 AFC Championship Game any time soon — but he has been pretty darn close. Over the three seasons since Allen joined the team, Gostkowski leads all NFL kickers in both field goal percentage (93.0 percent) and field goals made (106) and has been selected to three consecutive Pro Bowls.
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