Stephen Gostkowski, cut by the Patriots this offseason, struggles badly in first game with Titans

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Bill Belichick always seems to know the exact right time to let go of a veteran, even ones who have helped him win championships.

In March, the New England Patriots cut Stephen Gostkowski. Belichick put out a nice statement, thanking Gostkowski for his 14 seasons with the team. It was a bit of a surprising move only because Gostkowski is, by far, the all-time leading scorer in Patriots history and one of the best kickers in the NFL over the past decade and a half. He has three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots.

On Monday night, Belichick looked like he had good timing again. Gostkowski had the worst game of his career on a “Monday Night Football” stage, less than two weeks after signing with the Tennessee Titans.

Yet somehow, he redeemed himself when it truly mattered most.

Gostkowski, after missing three field goals and an extra point, drilled a 25-yarder with 17 seconds left to lead the Titans to a 16-14 win against the Denver Broncos late on Monday night.

Gostkowski struggles early, often

Gostkowski missed his first field goal. His second one was blocked. He missed a third one, the first time in his career he missed three in one game. Then to add to the horrible night, Gostkowski missed an extra point.

The Titans led 13-7 after that missed extra point, and Gostkowski’s missed kicks cost them a chance at 10 more points.

A Melvin Gordon touchdown run in the fourth quarter put the Broncos back up 14-13. The Titans then mounted a 12-play, 67-yard drive to set up one final shot for Gostkowski — which Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel gave him.

Gostkowski’s fourth field goal attempt of the night finally split the uprights, giving the Titans the two-point win.

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While he made up for his mistakes at the very end, however, it may not be enough.

Gostkowski is coming off hip surgery. He’s 36 years old. It was a risky signing by the Titans, especially with the odd offseason. Still, plenty of kickers are effective into their late 30s. Gostkowski is a four-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro and was the kicker on the 2010s NFL All-Decade Team. He should still have more good seasons left.

But when Belichick gave up on Gostkowski, maybe it should have been a sign. There’s still time for Gostkowski to rebound, but that’s only if the Titans decide to give him a second shot after an awful first game.

Tennessee Titans kicker Stephen Gostkowski
Tennessee Titans kicker Stephen Gostkowski had a tough night in Denver. (AP/David Zalubowski)

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