Ever since he entered the NFL nine years ago, Stephen Gostkowski has been one of the best kickers in football. The man has essentially been a football kicking robot in his time with the Patriots.
The former fourth round pick is 276-316 on field goals in his career, good for 87.3 percent, the third-best career mark amongst active kickers. In the last three seasons, he’s been even better, going 106-114 (93 percent) on all field goals, and missing just once from 30-39 yards in those seasons, going 34-35 (97.1 percent) from that distance in that span. Since missing an extra point in Week 17 of his rookie season, Gostkowski made 523 straight extra points, an NFL record. He wasn’t affected at all by the new 33-yard extra point difference this season, making all 52 of his attempts during the regular season.
So when the Patriots scored after Stephen Jackson’s 1-yard run in the first quarter, Gostkowski would hit the extra point to make it 7-7, and the Patriots offense would get rolling again. It would be business as usual.
Except it wasn’t. He missed.
Gostkowski’s extra point attempt missed just right, snapping his record-long streak of extra points and marking his first missed extra point in 61 attempts in the playoffs. Gostkowski said postgame he just took his eye off the ball too soon and connected with the ball with the wrong part of his foot.
The Patriots would go on to lose to the Broncos 20-18 in the AFC Championship game after Tom Brady’s two-point conversion attempt to Julian Edelman was picked off in the end zone with just seconds left to play.
For what it’s worth, Gostkowski didn’t let the miss get to his head. He went on to nail field goals of 38 and 46 yards to keep New England in the game.
It’s easy to look at the score and say the loss was all Gostkowski’s fault. That’s not true. Very rarely does football truly ever come down to one play, and that play certainly doesn’t happen in the first quarter. Brady was sacked four times, and hit and hurried even more. The defense had no answer for Owen Daniels, and a Peyton Manning that was a shell of his old self. It’s impossible to blame a loss where the Patriots were outplayed on both ends on the kicker.
However, the most interesting takeaway from Gostkowski’s miss is the record that has officially come to an end. After breaking Matt Stover’s record of 422 extra points with his 423rd straight conversion against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week Five, Gostkowski proceeded to tack on 100 more made extra points, all the way up to that unfortunate miss against Denver.
Gostkowski’s remarkable consistency combined with extending the length of the extra point kick means that his record of 523 consecutive extra points made could become one of the immortal records that will never be broken, such as Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak or Cal Ripken Jr.’s streak of playing in 2,632 straight games.
In the first year with the extended extra point, NFL kickers converted on 94.2 percent of their extra point attempts this season, the lowest since 1982 and down from 99.3 percent last year. While kickers will eventually adjust and improve over time, Gostkowski’s record looks out of reach for decades. Just six kickers were perfect on extra points this year. Gostkowski was one of them, and made more (52) than anyone else, and 16 more than Mason Crosby, who had the second-highest total amongst those who were perfect.
It takes years of consistency and frankly, some luck to get within the same stratosphere of Gostkowski’s mark. With the extra point at the distance it currently is, it’s hard to see anyone approaching it anytime soon or ever for that matter.
Not to mention, Gostkowski hasn’t just excelled at extra points. He finished this season making his last 15 field goals, and led the NFL in points for the fourth-straight year with 151. While his miss was in a big game, one miss doesn’t affect his legacy as one of the greatest Patriots ever, with a record that will likely stand the test of time forever.