the study of the kicking components within sports

Monday, December 2, 2013

NFL Week Thirteen: Stephen Gostkowski Kicks Pair of Fourth Quarter 53 Yarders

The field conditions were not the best in the New England at Houston game, as Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski noted:
“It was a bad field. You don’t get to attack the ball as well when you’re worried about the field, but we practice on grass that gets chewed up all year on the practice fields so being out there getting confidence knowing you can make kicks helps. And you don’t want to use the field as an excuse to why you’re gonna screw up. I literally don’t think about the field when I’m going out there. I make the adjustments in warmups to how hard I have to go at the ball without slipping but when I’m going out there that’s the last thing I think of....

You can’t kick behind the ball because you don’t know what the [grass] surface is going to be like. On turf, you can do that and know how your foot is going to slide. So you have to be clean and hit a good ball every time.”  
In the second quarter, Gostkowski came up wide right on a 55 yard attempt.
“That’s what I tried to do on the first one, I missed it a little bit, regrouped myself and told myself that I’ve hit more kicks than I’ve missed in this league. Then with the next one, if you take one kick at a time then you’re going to go out there and nail it. That’s been the situation with two games and you’ve just got to go out there and make the kick. I felt that if I take that approach, I’ll be successful....

I’ll miss a field goal every game if it’s gonna end like that. It was a tough kick. I thought I hit it pretty well but it faded right a little bit. I probably hit it off my toe a little. The ball’s been coming off my foot pretty well and our coaches tell us, if you’re gonna miss, don’t miss ugly. That was not a bad miss and it was one of the tougher kicks I’ve had.” 
Gostkowski's mention of how the game ended referred to the latter half of the fourth quarter - where he made two field goals of 53 yards each to give the Patriots a come from behind 34-31 win.
“I take pride in every kick, but especially kicks in the fourth quarter. It’s crazy the way games can play out. It’s nice to get opportunities to kick long kicks in good weather. It’s tough to make kicks of that distance in December in Foxborough, so you wouldn’t be expected to be called out there for a couple of 53- or 55-yard field goals. Just to be able to do it in the fourth quarter, and when the team needed me to tie it and to put us ahead, it definitely makes it feel a little bit more special after the fact....

It’s the tight games where you need the special teams the most. We worked so hard on it. It definitely is not looked any less by the team or the coaching staff. When we go out there and do our jobs, it’s just a matter of doing what we’ve done in practice. They have confidence in us, and for them to send us out there in big-time situations and be looked upon as a guy who can get through those situations is really nice and rewarding....

My motto is to swing as hard as you can as long as you can stay under control. It’s been fun. I’ve been hitting the ball well and mentally I’ve been feeling good and I’m just trying to keep it going.”
Fellow specialist punter Ryan Allen, who also serves as the holder on placekicks, said of his kicker:
“Credit goes to Steve for being able to work in these conditions. In the end, he has to rely on two different people to do their jobs before he can even do his with high percentages. He does it week in and week out, and that’s why he is one of the best....

You can see how calm and collected he always is. He’s a veteran player and he carries himself that way. It shows he’s mentally stronger than most. It’s amazing to watch how composed and confident he is, no matter the conditions or if he’s had a rough day."
While Gostkowski's field goals provided the winning points, it was Allen who got the final foot on the ball in the game - a punt downed at the five yard line with 22 seconds remaining.
“That’s something we practice all the time, being in ‘double-gunner’ and getting good execution there at the end. We call ‘em ‘gotta have it’ plays and we go through them routinely each week at practice and it allows us to execute at a high rate. When we’re back there, it just feels like another punt and we’re confident and collected.”

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