The New England Patriots had one common theme during their dominance of the early 2000s.
Besides an elite defense and Tom Brady at the helm, they possessed one of, if not the most clutch kicker of all-time, Adam Vinatieri. Had it not been for some of his big-time kicks in some of the biggest games in franchise history, the team would not have won three Super Bowl titles.
While Stephen Gostkowski has a long way to go to earn the “clutch” designation, he is off to a very good start so far in 2013. On the season, he has converted 16-of-17 field goal attempts. Of those attempts, he has made 5-of-6 from 40-49 yards out.
He has also converted both of his attempts from 50+ yards, including a huge 54-yard field goal in yesterday’s win against the New Orleans Saints. That field goal gave the Patriots a 20-17 lead at the time, which turned out to be crucial given what the final score of the game turned out to be.
Had he missed the kick, the Patriots would have given the Saints the ball back around midfield in a tie game. You could argue that this was the most important score, besides the game-winning touchdown catch by Kenbrell Thompkins, of the whole game.
Besides the fact that Gostkowski has made 94 percent of his kicks so far this year, he has been among the best kickers in the NFL this year from long range. This is a welcomed change as many fans and analysts alike have been critical of his ability to make kicks in the clutch, myself included.
If he can continue to kick the way he has in big moments this year, he will prove all of his doubters wrong. So far in 2013, for me personally, he is starting to remind me of Vinatieri when he was at his best.
In any case, the Patriots better hope he can sustain his excellent play into the latter part of the season as they will need him to produce similarly down the stretch and in the playoffs.