Game is kickers' chance to be hero -- or goat

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GLENDALE, Ariz. --- New York's Lawrence Tynes has thought about kicking the winning field goal in the Super Bowl.

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Place-kicker Stephen Gostkowski, left, was 21-for-24 on field-goal attempts and hit all 74 point-after attempts for New England this season.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Place-kicker Stephen Gostkowski, left, was 21-for-24 on field-goal attempts and hit all 74 point-after attempts for New England this season.

"It's something I started dreaming about this week," he said.

Not Stephen Gostkowski.

"If I'm too worried about the last-second kick, what about the first three quarters?" New England's kicker said.

Keep that in mind when the Patriots and Giants play on Sunday. Depending on the outcome, a late kick could make one of them as famous as Adam Vinatieri -- or as notorious as Scott Norwood.

Two of the Patriots' three Super Bowl victories came on late field goals by Vinatieri, one against the St. Louis Rams in 2002 and the other against the Carolina Panthers in 2004. Norwood missed a potential winning 47-yarder for Buffalo against the New York Giants in 1991.

Both kickers are etched in Super Bowl lore. Now it could be Tynes' or Gostkowski's turn.

Tynes has already secured a place in the Giants' illustrious history by nailing a 47-yarder in overtime to defeat the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game. What made it sweeter is that Tynes had missed two field goals, including a 36-yarder that would have won the game at the end of regulation.

Since then, Tynes has become something of a celebrity, at least by the modest standards of place-kickers. He made an appearance on David Letterman's show and was mobbed by reporters at Super Bowl media day this week.

"It's definitely not my thing," said Tynes, who made 23 of 27 field goals this season (85.2 percent) and 40 of 42 extra points (95.2 percent).

But the media was just warming up to Tynes, the son of a Scottish mother and a U.S. Navy Seal. He didn't even play football until he was a teenager.

Tynes' brother, Mark, is in an Arkansas prison, serving a 27-year sentence on a drug conviction. Tynes told his brother's story last week, before the Giants left for Arizona. He politely declined to elaborate after arriving in the desert to begin Super Bowl preparations.

Were it not for Tynes, the Giants might not be in the Super Bowl. But until he kicked the overtime winner, it looked as if his late miss in regulation would keep them out. After the two missed kicks in Green Bay, television cameras caught Giants coach Tom Coughlin bellowing as Tynes came off the field.

Like Tynes, Gostkowski took a circuitous route to the NFL. He said several colleges yanked their scholarship offers after he had a "bad" senior season in high school, and he considered devoting himself to baseball. He was a standout right-handed pitcher.

"There's times I wanted to quit football," said Gostkowski, who is 21-for-24 on field goals and hasn't missed a PAT this season. "But I stuck with it and I took it seriously every time I did it, and I'm glad it worked out. It's something I worked hard at."

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