Patriots, Colts can count on kickers

Playoff rivals can count on their kickers in clutch times

  • Follow NFL

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Stephen Gostkowski sings on the sideline when he prepares to kick. Then he tries a field goal that could win a big game for the New England Patriots.

Back | Next
Vinatieri  ASSOCIATED PRESS
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Vinatieri

The song Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head, might be appropriate tonight against the Indianapolis Colts with a spot in the AFC Champ­ionship Game at stake.

Steady rain is expected during the divisional-round game, but Gostkowski says it’s his job to deal with all kinds of weather. Besides, the NFL scoring leader for the second consecutive season has a routine that helps him focus.

During the week “I’ll watch a five-minute (video) cut-up of some big kicks that I’ve made to a song that I like,” he said. “Then, when I’m on the sideline, I’ll sing that song and then, in my head, I see the ball going through the uprights.”

What’s that tune?

“It’s a secret,” he said.

On game day he also listens to mellow music to relax before taking the field where 300-pound linemen charge each other and cornerbacks collide with receivers.

“I always just try to visualize myself doing well and not getting overexcited or too hyped up in the moment,” Gostkowski said. “Most of those guys are banging heads. I’m trying to like listen to Enya before the game to calm myself down.”

It’s worked for him.

In eight seasons since the Patriots drafted him in the fourth round out of Memphis in 2006, Gostkowski has made 85.6 percent of his regular-season field goal attempts, fifth best in NFL history. This season, his 92.7 percentage (38 of 41) was second best in Patriots history.

The best? The 93.9 percent (31 of 33) in 2004 of Adam Vinatieri, the kicker Gostkowski replaced.

The 18-year veteran returns to Gillette Stadium with the Colts after a regular-season in which he made 87.5 percent (35 of 40) of his attempts.

Vinatieri expects the same greeting he’s heard in past visits with the Colts.

“They’re fanatical fans, like we have,” Vinatieri said. “I’m sure they’ll be loud and probably in a negative way to me and the rest of the team, but that’s what it’s supposed to be.”

In the only other playoff duel between the two kickers, the Colts trailed 21-3 in the final minute of the first half but won the AFC Championship Game 38-34 on their way to a 2007 Super Bowl win.

On consecutive fourth-quarter series, Gostkowski, then Vinatieri then Gostkowski again made field goals that left the Patriots ahead 34-31. Then Joseph Addai ran 3 yards for the winning touchdown with 1:00 left.

“There’s a lot of fun things about this sport,” said Vinatieri, who also won three Super Bowls with New England, “but trying to hoist that trophy at the end is what we all play for.”

He has been a clutch kicker with 24 winning field goals in the last minute of a regular-season or playoff game.

“He’s a special guy,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “He was here in ‘96, the year I came in (as an assistant coach) and was very consistent, dependable, tough-minded, good technique player. It doesn’t look like it’s changed.”

Gostkowski has had far fewer clutch opportunities in 10 fewer seasons, connecting on six winning field goals in the final four minutes with three coming this season.

He admires Vinatieri’s long-term success, but can he envision sticking around that long himself?

“I don’t know, man,” Gostkowski said. “I’m just trying to make it to the next game.”

For now, it’s all about Saturday night.

Both teams have been in plenty of close games this season. The Patriots (12-4) are 8-4 when the margin was seven points or fewer. The Colts (12-5) were 6-1 in games decided by six or fewer. The latest came last Saturday in a 45-44 wild-card win over the Kansas City Chiefs, who led by 28 early in the third quarter.

And two of last weekend’s four playoff games were won with field goals on the last play.

So the spotlight could be on Gostkowski or Vinatieri late in a game that will keep alive one team’s Super Bowl hopes.

“If I feel nervous and tight and anxious before the game, I feel like if I can turn that into focus then I’ll have a good day,” Gostkowski said. “It’s the days I show up and I just feel like it’s any other day are the days I get most worried. If I can turn that anxiousness into focus then I feel pretty confident.”

COLTS AT PATRIOTS

8:15 p.m.CBS-Ch. 12

RECORDS: Indianapolis 12-5; New England 12-4

SERIES RECORD: Patriots lead 47-29

LAST MEETING: Patriots beat Colts 59-24, Nov. 18, 2012

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES: Patriots 2-1 vs. Colts in postseason, last meeting won by Indianapolis 38-34 in AFC Championship Game on Jan. 21, 2007. … Colts 11 postseason appearances since 2002 are most in NFL, Patriots have 10. … LB Robert Mathis led NFL with club record 19½ sacks and has 5½ postseason sacks. … Patriots trying to become first team since Eagles from 2001-04 to reach at least three consecutive conference championship games. … Tom Brady seeking to extend his NFL record to 18 postseason wins by a starting quarterback.

– Associated Press


Search Augusta jobs