FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — In the Bill Belichick era, Patriots fans have watched just three kickers: Adam Vinatieri from 1996-2005, Stephen Gostkowski from 2005 until this past Sunday in Buffalo and half a season of Shayne Graham in 2010.
Now, the Patriots are back on the kicking carousel when news surfaced Wednesday that Gostkowski was placed on injured reserve with a left hip injury that requires season-ending surgery. The team quickly held tryouts and ended up signing 37-year old Mike Nugent, who has made more than 85 percent of his field goals from less than 50 yards.
Aside from this week’s kicking fiasco, the Patriots welcomed back tight end Benjamin Watson from suspension and signed defensive back and special teamer Jordan Richards who spent the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons in New England. The team is favored to beat the Redskins by more than two touchdowns on Sunday, so it could be another snoozer by halftime.
Sunday’s game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. and will air live on WPRI 12. Beforehand, make sure to tune into Fox Providence at 11:30 a.m. for Eyewitness Sports’ New England Nation pregame show. Yianni Kourakis, Ruthie Polinsky, Morey Hershgordon and Andy Gresh will dissect the matchup and preview the game just before kickoff. Then, later on, flip to Patriots Wrap at 11:15 p.m. on WPRI 12 for all your postgame analysis and a recap from around the NFL.
Below are some notes and quotes from this past week at Patriots headquarters leading up to Sunday’s game:
- The Patriots’ defense has recorded 10 interceptions so far this season. They’re on pace to reach 40 by the end of the regular season, which would break the NFL record for most in one season.
- The Patriots’ defense has allowed opponents to convert on just seven third downs in 52 chances (13.5%).
- The Patriots have won 18 straight games against first- or second-year quarterbacks, the longest streak in the NFL.
Devin McCourty on what Gostkowski means to the Patriots: “All-time great. I think because of Slate [Matthew Slater] always being the special teams captain, I think maybe sometimes the outside world doesn’t know how much he means to our special teams unit and to us as a team.
“I think for me, just the stability of that position—we never waver if there’s a kick on the line, kickoffs, playing against tough returners,” he continued. “Sometimes, the best thing to stop a tough returner is Steve kicking a ball out of the end zone. So, he’s meant a lot to this team, obviously for the whole time I’ve been here, and obviously, you see a lot of that in the record books and all of that, where he has a lot of records for this franchise, but I always speak on how much he means to the locker room: always keeping it light, he’s the best at every little thing and tournament we do in the locker room, so he’ll definitely be missed throughout the year, just having his presence in there.”
James White on the key to pass protection and blitz pickup: “First, knowing who you have, knowing who the line has. It’s knowing all the calls and the possible things that you have to look at. At the end of the day, it’s just being physical and staying after somebody for as long as it needs to be. For one second, five seconds, you never know how long it’s going to take Tom to get rid of the ball, so staying inside-out and just keeping them off of him.”
Bill Belichick on facing the Redskins: “Obviously, this is a team we don’t know very well even though we played against them last year in preseason. That really is a lot different than the game planning that goes on now. Really, a talented team. The Redskins have a lot of good offensive skill players at every position: quarterback, running back, tight end, receiver. Pretty experienced offensive line, a very experienced coaching staff—Coach [Jay] Gruden, Coach [Bill] Callahan, [Matt] Cavanaugh—so those guys are really very experienced on the offensive side of the ball, do a real good job with the offensive system and create a lot of problems for the defense. Defensively, the front is very disruptive. They have good players on the edge, good players inside, guys that are hard to block. They cause a lot of negative plays, ball disruption, tackles-for-loss, put a lot of pressure on the offensive line.”