There is a certain artistry to kicking a field goal. There is also a tremendous amount of finely tuned mechanics and moving parts involved. Even a relatively easy kick from the 40 yard line, which is 120 feet away, is incredibly complex. A 13.5 pound oblong, hand stitched from natural pigskin, I kicked into an area 20 feet by 18.5 feet wide, 10 feet off the ground. An NFL place kicker is trying to battle the wind, rain, or snow to kick the ball into an area about the size of a large garden plot, all in under 1.5 seconds before a speedy perimeter player runs in from the edge or a great of massive arms manages to deflect it just enough. The kicker needs to have the proper plant foot location, hip rotation, accounting for the wind in order to it to go flawlessly. And that is just the kickers responsibility. The long snapper has his own job to do. Making sure that the ball is place in an area the size of a dinner platter, with the proper speed and rotation so that the holder can place it at the predesignated spot at the proper time and rotate it so that the laces are always out. There is a lot going on.
When everything goes correctly no one noticed. And it’s the nature of the play as well. “We didn’t play well enough to get all 7 points, but we hope to salvage something from this possession by getting three points from a guy who’s only job is to kick the ball around on the field.” The kickers themselves have been getting better and better. Since becoming a specialized position they have been more accurate from farther away. When it goes wrong everyone notices and comments on it. A kicker could sign a 4 or 5 year deal and if he has a bad one could find himself getting the dreaded “vote of confidence”.
Stephen Gostkowski finds himself in a mini-slump. He has made 9 field goals on 12 attempts. It is still a small sample size, he regularly makes 35+ attempts per season. And only 5 more kickers have attempted fewer kicks in the NFL so far. He has never finished a season below 80% except for his rookie year and an injury shortened 2010. Barring an injury, I fully expect Gostkowski to bounce back and get his average back into the mid 80’s by the end of the year. Gostkowski is a record setting, Pro Bowler that the Patriots invested big money for. He has experienced early season struggles and then made the proper corrections and it all became a thing of the past. He will be ok Patriots fans.