After the season-ending loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game, the New England Patriots and their fans are looking for answers. While the Patriots were the clear favorites in the game, Peyton Manning and the Broncos defense were just too much for Tom Brady and company.
While a loss should never be put squarely on one player, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski is putting the blame entirely on himself. Viewed as one of the top kickers in the NFL, Gostkowski is extremely consistent on even the longest field goals. After a slow start, the Patriots found themselves down by a score of 7-0 in the opening quarter. The Patriots went on to score a touchdown, and it appeared as though they had tied the game.Instead, Gostkowski missed the extra point. It was not blocked. It was not tipped. He just missed it. After the NFL moved the extra point distance back this year, we have seen more and more missed extra points. While it is more common for kickers to miss extra points, no one expects Gostkowski to miss them. The irony is, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was at the forefront of getting extra points pushed back because he believed they were too easy, according to SB Nation.
To put into perspective how reliable he is, Gostkowski's last extra point miss came on December 31, 2006, according to Jeff Darlington of NFL Network.In that almost 10-year stretch, Gostkowski made 562 or 563 extra point attempts, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Since it was only the opening quarter when it happened, it did not seem like a huge deal at the time. As the game went on, that missing point become much more important. Unfortunately, for the Patriots, they were never able to make up that extra point. While they scored a touchdown in the final minute of the game to put them down by only two points, they were not able to successfully complete the 2-point conversion.
If Gostkowski had made the extra point in the opening quarter, the odds are that the Patriots would have tied the game and sent it into overtime. According to ProFootballTalk, Gostkowski took blame for the loss after the game.
"I feel like I lost the game. I feel sorry for myself, but I don't expect people to feel sorry for me."And he is absolutely right. In a battle against an elite team like the Denver Broncos, you have to execute the easy plays. While Brady was not at his best, he still played well enough to win the game against a ferocious defense. An extra point is one of the easiest plays to execute in the NFL. While there are still a lot of moving parts involved, it is still basically a free point.
Whether or not the Patriots win the game in overtime is anyone's guess, but Brady would have loved the opportunity. While that additional point is probably lingering in Brady's mind, he does not blame his kicker.While the Patriots failed to win their second consecutive Super Bowl, their future is still bright. While he will be 39-years-old when the 2016 NFL season starts, Tom Brady is still playing at an elite level. He takes care of his body, follows a very strict diet, and is a true student of the game. Additionally, he has amazing chemistry with tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Julian Edelman.
And Gostkowski? While the missed extra point turned out to be a huge turning point in the game, the Patriots are secure with their kicker going forward. He is still one of the most reliable kickers in the league, and he also has range that other kickers do not possess.
While rumors may continue to swirl the next few months over the future of the New England Patriots, it is safe to say they will be back competing for a Super Bowl next season.
[Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images]