The evidence suggests nerves got to Stephen Gostkowski early in Super Bowl LIII.
The operating word there is "early."
After shanking a 46-yard field goal in the first quarter Sunday night against the Los Angeles Rams, the New England Patriots kicker delivered when it mattered most, drilling a 41-yarder with 1:12 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The kick was an essential game-winner, giving the Patriots a 13-3 lead they would easily retain en route to their sixth Super Bowl title. Had Gostkowski missed, the Rams would have had the ball with a chance to tie the game, and some may have questioned Bill Belichick's decision to trot Gostkowski out rather than go for it on fourth-and-inches.
But the veteran kicker seemed mentally prepared for the moment despite his earlier gaffe.
"I was weirdly calm, maybe a lot calmer than the first kick that I screwed up," Gostkowski told NBC Sports Boston's Tom E. Curran after the game. "It's just an exciting feeling to do that, you know, win a championship. The guys played so hard and it would have been an injustice for me not to make that kick."
Gostkowski, who now has missed a field goal in each of the last three Super Bowls, admitted his earlier stumble helped him find his stride.
"I don't know. Sometimes for me it takes a screwup to get me locked in. I don't know why," Gostkowski told Curran. "It's a weird position; I wish I would have made all my kicks. But I'm just so happy that we won and we're champions and to be able to put the game away like that was pretty special."
What made that kick even more special was that it was dedicated to Gostkowski's late grandfather, who passed away the night before the Super Bowl, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss.
Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski played Super Bowl LIII with a heavy heart as his grandfather, William Klick, passed away Saturday night. Gostkowski wanted to dedicate his last kick to him. "He was the kindest, funniest man I knew," he said. pic.twitter.com/5azPVCq6Hk
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) February 4, 2019
While Gostkowski probably would have preferred a perfect night in the kicking game, he still got the perfect result: His third Super Bowl ring.
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