MINNEAPOLIS -- For the first half of his Patriots career, Stephen Gostkowski was Mr. Automatic - so much so that Adam Vinatieri was starting to feel like something of a relic from a previous Patriots era.
Vinatieri was Pats kicker 1.0. Clutch, but not automatic. Gostkowski was Patriots kicker 2.0. Simply awesome … and the team was so good offensively for the first portion of his career that he did not have to "save" the Patriots too many times in key moments.
Gostkowski kicked a game-winner to beat the Giants in New Jersey a few years back, but he still really hasn't had that career moment that Vinatieri had not once, but three times (Super Bowl game-winners against Rams and Panthers, Divisional kick in the snow against Oakland).
There have also been some significant misses for Gostkowski in recent years, most notably the missed extra point he had against Denver in the AFC Championship game two years ago. The Pats lost by two points in that one, having to go for a two-point conversion to try and tie it at the end because Gostkowski had shanked one. He also missed the only extra point he attempted in the Super Bowl last year against Atlanta, somewhat making up for it with two field goals.
No doubt, though, confidence in Gostkowski has never been lower in New England.
"As a kicker you can't dwell on a missed kick," Gostkowski told Metro this week in Minneapolis. "It's always on to the next one."
Asked if there was any temptation to watch his misses over and over on video in the offseason, Gostkowski said he does not harp on anything. The makes and misses are over once they are over.
"I don't have time to look back on the kicks," Gostkowski said. "Every kick is a new kick. Plus, with kids at home - Blues Clues is the only thing on TV. I'm not watching my kicks over and over again."
Gostkowski hit on 46-of-49 field goals this season and 27-of-32 field goals. The field goal percentage there is 92.5, fourth best in the NFL. The extra point percentage was 95.7 for Gostkowski, 11th best in the league.
With the Patriots standard of excellence so high, Gostkowski is not only still battling the ghost of Vinatieri - but also his own excellence of several years ago.