There is no doubt that Stephen Gostkowski is one of the best, if not the best, placekicker in the NFL. However, on Sunday, the usually-reliable Gostkowski had a missed extra point that proved to be the undoing for the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship against the Denver Broncos. In a postseason filled with special teams intrigue, this was the latest chapter that showed just how critical the third phase is to a team’s success. Chuck Zodda takes you through the Stephn Gostkowski missed extra point one frame at a time.
The Patriots line up slightly right of center, which is where we have seen Stephen Gostkowski align on extra points throughout the 2015 season. The slightly off-center approach gives Gostkowski an incentive to maintain his mechanics through the kicking zone, as it likely keeps him focused on getting his leg and hips through cleanly and without creating too much of an angle.
His steps are slightly quicker than usual. The effect of this on a kicker is nearly identical to a golfer rushing his backswing. A rushed backswing tends to produce a push slice due to the inability of the arms and hips to catch up after such a quick move backward, leaving the club face open. The same result occurs when rushing a kick.
He has plenty of room to clear his hips, but the quick approach effectively jams him. With his hips not facing the target zone, Gostkowski’s leg cannot get proper clearance to fire towards the uprights, instead pushing out in the direction that his hips are facing. This is confirmed in this image taken immediately after he strikes the ball:
Generally, there are two types of misses to the right for right-footed kickers: a slicing trajectory that occurs when a kicker whips through the zone too quickly, making weaker-than-usual contact with the ball and pulling off of it as a golfer does; and the off-center impact that causes the ball to tumble off-axis as it travels, creating the slice as it fades right. Gostkowki’s miss was the second type, which occurs when the hips and legs lag behind the rest of the approach, here caused by the quickened – rushed? – initial pace. This miss saw almost no fade, and was moving to the right immediately after contact. It was struck cleanly, but Gostkowski’s mechanics had deteriorated to the point where he had no chance at success:
Heading into this game, Gostkowski was probably the least of Patriots fans’ concerns. But, as Seattle Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka said after Blair Walsh’s miss in the Wild Card round, “Every kicker, if they play long enough, has something like that, and it sucks.”
Gostkowski will have the entire offseason to think about this kick and where to go from here. While he was otherwise-perfect on the day, there is no doubt this kick will be the focal point of his training as he seeks to bounce back in 2016. Speaking with reporters after the game, Gostkowski took responsibility for the loss and answered all questions as he seeks to put this behind him and redeem himself next year.
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Chuck Zodda knows the importance of staying in your lane, how to fake a punt return, thehumanity of punters, proper placekicking technique and the Jets.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.