Just a month ago, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning faced off for the 17th time. The New England Patriots played the Denver Broncos in the 2016 AFC Championship game, both hoping to clench a spot on the NFL’s biggest stage at Super Bowl 50. To the heartbreak of Pats Nation, New England fell short in a two-point loss to Denver.
As is true for just about any football game, several factors contributed to this close but defeating outcome for the Patriots. The New England offensive line fell short of on par, Denver was doing enough on offense to continually hold a lead, and the Denver defense was managing to keep Brady’s success limited. In addition, there are plenty of specific plays that could be pointed to and reserved for the discussion of “If only that play had worked,” or “If only that call had been made,” etc. However, one play stood out. And there’s no one that it stood out to me more than Stephen Gostkowski.
Less than 10 minutes in, the Broncos were the first on the board with seven points. Approaching the end of the quarter, it was beginning to appear that we’d be heading to the 2nd with a tied game. However, despite the six points achieved from Steven Jackson’s one-yard touchdown run, Gostkowski was unable to tack on a 7th when he answered with a missed extra point. This later proved to be a factor in the Pats’ decision to attempt a 2-point conversion, which was unfortunately unsuccessful.
Not many kickers get the credit that they deserve and their role as a player often goes overlooked. To New England fans, the situation is different because we have Gostkowski—one of the very greatest. His talent is exceptional and can’t be overlooked. Until that play, Gostkowski hadn’t missed an extra point since 2006—back when he was just a rookie. Gostkowski is an incredibly talented kicker and his infrequent missed field goal was definitely not solely to blame in the loss to Denver.
However, it is only natural that Gostkowski felt some responsibility at the close of the game, like any ambitious player would. In addition to his talent, though, his mentality truly sets him apart as a great athlete.
According to NESN, a couple weeks ago, Gostkowski spoke with ESPN’s Mike Reiss about the loss and his thoughts toward it:
“You have to have a short memory in this game, but I’m always hard on myself for a couple days, even when we win and I have a miskick,” he said to Reiss. “It’s a perfectionist’s job—you strive for perfection. I expect to make every kick, and when I don’t, it’s very frustrating.”
“I’m the kind of person that would rather take more accountability than none at all. That’s just the way I was raised,” he later continued. “When things don’t go your way, you can either sulk (and) make excuses or take accountability, and that’s how I feel I represent myself, my family and teammates in a positive way, even when things don’t go my way.”
Looking at these quotes and all the talent that Gostkowski has displayed over the years, and there is no question: Gostkowski is the epitome of a great athlete both mentally and physically. One missed field goal does not even come close to defining him. Pats Nation loves him. Thank you for being the best and a perfectionist, Gostkowski, but also, and most importantly, for being tough—mentally and physically.