By: Ian Logue
After Ryan Allen got hurt, Stephen Gostkowski had to step in and take over the punting duties Saturday night. (USA TODAY Images)
You wouldn’t think that losing a punter would create such a problem, but after Ryan Allen went down Saturday night with a shoulder injury, the repercussions trickled down across several key positions that will likely force the team to address them this week.
After Ryan went out in the second quarter, place kicker Stephen Gostkowski took over the punting duties and booted punts of 53, 35, 43, 52, and 26 on the evening, while Patriots quarterback Tom Brady ended up taking over the holding duties on the extra point attempts.
“It’s been a while since I’ve done that,” Brady told reporters after the game. “I was happy to help the team. Maybe I’ll try to renegotiate my contract or something for doing more work or something.”
When asked how long it’s been since he’s done that, Brady had to go all the way back to his college days at Michigan when he played in the Orange Bowl back in 2000. His biggest concern when he was asked to do it was if there were any signals he needed to give, because it’s something he admitted he’s never even done in practice.
“I think it was when I played in the Orange Bowl 14, 15 years ago,” said Brady. “I don’t even do it in practice. They said, ‘Get in there and do it,’ and I said, ‘What do I say?’ So we figured it out.”
Belichick also said that unfortunately this is the time of year where with a limited roster, everyone has to be ready, and that’s what happened last night after Ryan got hurt.
“It’s been a little while…it’s been a little while,” said Belichick when asked about Brady stepping in to hold on kicks. “But again, we saw Tom punt last week, or two weeks ago, whatever it was. I mean, we do those things. Look, it’s that time of year and we all know we’ve only got 46 active guys. So everybody has to back up somebody and you just never know how those are going to come out. Have to have everybody ready, and they were. They did a good job. They were called on unexpectedly and they did a good job.”
For one game, things worked out. However, having your starting quarterback in there, who could take a shot on a diving field goal block attempt, isn’t exactly ideal. Not to mention having your place kicker take a shot during a punt return like we saw Bengals punter Kevin Huber take earlier this year and getting injured would also take out two positions, of which they don’t currently have an additional option.
If Allen can’t play in the AFC Championship game next Sunday, in all likelihood we’ll see someone come in this week. But seeing the adjustments made following his injury just shows you another example of the versatility and ability to react on the fly, and the Patriots definitely put together an impressive performance.
Head coach Bill Belichick praised Gostkowski after the game, and was pleased with how he stepped up in a tough situation.
“Stephen, he punts in practice and he’s done that before,” Belichick said. “I thought that was a great job. Brady holding, Gostkowski punting, that’s kind of playoff football. Things like that happen. Guys get called on to do something maybe they haven’t done all year or haven’t done in several years, and come through at a big time, so that was a great job by Steve, no question.”
Overall it was a performance that left Belichick really happy with the way his team stepped up, and now they’ll get another chance to advance to the Super Bowl next weekend.
“I’m really proud of our football team and I’m looking forward to moving on to a bigger game next week,” said Belichick. “But it was a good win for us and I thought those guys really did a good job.”