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Sun., Jan. 21, 2018 12:40 PM to 2:45 PM EST
Sun., Jan. 21, 2018 12:41 PM to 2:45 PM EST
Sun., Jan. 21, 2018 2:45 PM to 6:00 PM EST
Satisfying Moment of the Game presented by SNICKERS®: Gostkowski gets it done
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The Patriots defense got more than its share of praise for the bounce-back win last Thursday night in Tampa Bay.
The unit certainly played more competitively than it had in previous outings, forcing the Bucs to punt on their first three possessions of the night and holding Jameis Winston to a mere 71 yards passing in the first half.
The effort helped overcome an early rare Tom Brady interception as the New England offense was less productive than had been the case over the first month.
But maybe the best unit the Patriots fielded in the 19-14 win in Tampa Bay was the third phase – the kicking game.
On a night when Tampa kicker Nick Folk missed a trio of field goals, including a 31-yard attempt in the fourth quarter that would have changed the entire complexion of the way the game played out, New England’s special teamers were pretty special.
Certainly Danny Amendola’s 40-yard punt return in the second quarter to set up a short field goal sent the Patriots to the locker room feeling a bit better with a 13-7 halftime advantage.
And with the upstart Winston looking to pull off the comeback late in the fourth quarter special teams coordinator Joe Judge’s troops deserve credit for handling Folk’s admittedly poor onside kick, with Nate Ebner corralling the ball to keep possession for the visitors.
But, clearly the best advantage the Patriots had all night was in the comparison of the kickers.
While Folk was missing the mark, New England’s Stephen Gostkowski was doing his job about as well as any player on the field for either team.
Gostkowski nailed all four of his field goals from 27, 23, 45 and 48 yards to remain perfect on the three-point plays on the season.
It was the former All-Pro’s final kick, though, that may have been his most important.
After Winston had pulled the Bucs to within 16-14 on an 18-yard touchdown throw to tight end Cameron Brate with a little more than two minutes to play, Tampa was within striking distance.
The first stop to keeping them from completing the comeback was Ebner doing his job on the onside attempt.
The next step was Gostkowski nailing a 48-yard field goal three plays later – after the offense failed to move the chains -- to give the Patriots the five-point lead with 1:10 to play on the clock.
Though Tampa Bay would get the ball back, Winston had no timeouts left and needed to drive 75 yards to a touchdown. A field goal, thanks to Gostkowski’s final successful kick of the night, was no longer an option.
So while the game finally came to an end on Jonathan Jones’ pass defense of Winston’s last-ditch, hurried throw for tight end O.J. Howard in the end zone as time expired, that game-clinching played would never have happened were it not for Gostkowski.
Bouncing back from an up-and-down 2016 season, Gostkowski is now 12-for-12 on field goals on the season. He has been a clear strength for a team that’s still finding its way.
A week after a career-long, franchise-record 58-yarder in the loss to the Panthers, Gostkowski’s 48-yard boot at Raymond James Stadium was one of the key plays of an at-times ugly Thursday night football victory.
Gostkowski got his job when Folk could not. And the Patriots have a spot tied atop the AFC East with a 3-2 record to show for it.
It won’t be remembered as one of the flashier plays of the 2017 season, but at this early stage Gostkowski’s kick was clearly a satisfying moment for both the kicker and his team as they were able to grind out the tough win.