There are some games when many of the key plays are obvious as soon as they happen, and Saturday's win over Miami was a case in point. As the Patriots were climbing out of a 17-0 halftime hole, they received a huge boost from kicker Stephen Gostkowski that allowed the team to maintain its momentum.
New England took the opening kick of the second half down the field 54 yards but was forced to settle for a field goal that cut the deficit to 17-3. It was still early in the third quarter so there was plenty of time left to continue the comeback. But then Miami's Clyde Gates received the ensuing kick and hit a seam in the coverage and shot into the clear.
It looked for a split second as if Gates might go the distance, and he almost certainly would have if Gostkowski hadn't tripped him up ever so slightly with a diving tackle. The kicker was just able to make contact with Gates' foot and the Dolphins return man had to settle for a 33-yard runback to the Miami 38.
"Open-field tackles, those are hard even for real athletes," Gostkowski joked in the locker room after the game. "I just dove. I probably closed my eyes."
Had Gostkowski not gotten him, Gates would likely have scored and the margin would have been 24-3 - perhaps an insurmountable advantage given the enormous change in momentum that would have taken place. Instead, three plays later Miami quarterback Matt Moore fumbled the snap and Vince Wilfork recovered at the 38. Soon thereafter the Patriots scored their first touchdown and the tide had completely turned. Without Gostkowski's huge tackle, it may not have been possible.
It was the type of play that Take Two-sday was made for - a key effort that slipped under the radar a bit after the game but at the time was simply huge.