Special Teams A Big Part Of Their Success

Stephen Gostkowski isn't Adam Vinatieri, and that's a good thing. Vinatieri may be legendary in New England, but now he's in Indianapolis with a leg that isn't what it used to be. Meanwhile Gostkowski has quietly become the most accurate kicker in Patriots history. Having a strong leg for kicking touchbacks doesn't' hurt either.

With Tom Brady out for the season, most of the attention has been focused on Matt Cassel and the defense to shoulder the load for New England. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski is playing his part, too.

The third-year kicker has apparently discovered the key to success, for he's a perfect 5-for-5 on field-goal attempts this season and is coming off one of the best games of his career after kicking five touchbacks in New England's 19-10 victory last weekend over the New York Jets.

Gostkowski's booming kicks helped the Patriots eke out a close win while dominating the battle of field position. The Jets finished with only one return in the kicking game and never started a drive beyond their own 25-yard line. The Patriots subsequently limited New York to 256 total yards and started five of their own drives in Jets territory.

"Coach (Bill Belichick) is always starting off every meeting with special teams," Gostkowski said. "He reiterates how important it is to the whole team and not just the guys who are out there. It is a third of the game. It's not as many plays, but it's still a big thing and anytime you can help your offense out with good field position on a return or help your defense out, it goes a long way when the other team has to fight 80 yards every time, or you get a good punt and they've got to go 90 or something like that. It makes it a lot tougher.
"When all three phases play together, it's a good recipe for success."

Gostkowski also attributes his success to repetition. He kicks roughly five to 10 field goals in practice and then works exclusively with long snapper Lonie Paxton on an additional 30 to 40 kicks to keep himself sharp, though that number varies depending on his mood.

"Sometimes, if my coach thinks I'm not doing something right, you just call it quits then because you don't want to develop bad habits," he said. "There's a fine line between not kicking enough and kicking too much and I think (special teams coach) Brad (Seely) and coach Belichick do a fine job monitoring that. They realize that.

"When you get tired, you start doing different things. You start trying to kick too hard. That's when you start getting into trouble. It's a routine just like everyone else. We'll kick one way with the wind and one way against the wind -- the same amount each way. We'll practice long ones more than short ones, or vice-versa. It's so monotonous what I do. Kick 15 field goals this way, then go back so and so yards. It's the same thing every day. That's what you have to do as a kicker, punter or any skill position. You have to do the same thing every time and consistently."

With Tom Brady out for the season, Gostkowski's workload is expected to increase if the offense doesn't score as many touchdowns. Never one to think too much, Gostkowski prefers to stick with what works rather than predicting how much he'll be needed on any given week.

"You can't say anything because we could come out here and score seven touchdowns next week and I'll be kicking seven extra points," Gostkowski said. "My routine is when we cross the 50, I kick a couple of warm-up kicks, stretch a little bit and then on third down I start focusing in.

"If we get the first down, I go back and start my routine again. If not, they call for a field goal and I run out there. I don't think going into a game, 'Wow, this team has a great defense, so I might have to kick five field goals.' I don't go to sleep thinking about that. I just try to get ready when they call for a field goal and try to make it way more times than I'm not going to make it."

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