What Caused The Stephen Gostkowski Missed Extra Point?

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.

After a Steven Jackson touchdown with 1:49 remaining in the first quarter, New England sends out its extra point unit to attempt to tie the game:Gostkowski-Miss-1

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.

At the snap, Gostkowski approaches the ball:Gostkowski-Miss-2

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.

While Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh had issues with his plant foot that led to his missed field goal, Gostkowski has no such issues here:Gostkowski-Miss-3

Gostkowski’s foot has proper clearance from the ball, as verified in the close-up image:Gostkowski-Close-1

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:Gostkowski-Close-2

As the ball is struck, Gostkowski is still struggling to get his hips through the target. He never completely squares up, and the ball goes exactly where his body is pointing:Gostkowski-Miss-4

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:Gostkowski-Miss-5

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.

Follow Chuck on Twitter @ITP_ChuckZ.

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.

3 thoughts on “What Caused The Stephen Gostkowski Missed Extra Point?

  1. To me it looks like his plant foot is way too far forward. Most kickers (and the few of Gostkowski’s I looked up) the plant foot is even with the ball somewhere around the middle of the foot or heel. In this case, Gostkowski’s heel is well in front of the ball. With that placement, the only way to get under the ball is to open your hips. It’s like a novice golfer who sets up too far forward and tops the ball. Faced with the choice of topping the ball, or opening his hips to get under it and hope for the best, Gostkowski made the only reasonable choice.

  2. I agree with PT here. The distance from Gostkowski’s plant foot to the ball is fine laterally, but he’s planted well in front of the ball–that’s why he can’t clear his hips. Of course, he’s probably planted too far forward because he rushed his approach; it’s a chain reaction.

  3. Given your plant foot theory is correct and it is out too far in front of the ball physics dictates that his foot would also strike the ball on a downward plane.
    Thus the trejectory would also be flatter.
    Not on an upswing which would be the preferable way to strike the ball. This would have given him better control to get his hips parallel to the target line.

    Coach K

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