Stephen Gostkowski trotted onto the field with six seconds remaining in New England's home opener. The Patriots, led by the one and only Tom Brady, had mounted a spirited fourth quarter comeback but were still trailing 20-18. The loyal fans that remained in their seats had just witnessed a stunning turn of events; Arizona had the game all but locked up with just over a minute to play when Ryan Williams fumbled the football (recovered by Vince Wilfork). Two plays later, Danny Woodhead broke loose and rushed for what appeared to be the game winning touchdown, only to have it called back because of a penalty on Rob Gronkowski. But that didn't matter. New England was going to win; the only difference was in the margin of victory.
But as I scooted forward to the edge of my seat, I got this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
He's going to miss it.
It was just a gut feeling. There was no evidence to suggest he would shank it. After all, Gostkowski is perennially one of the top kickers in the league. He had made 38 consecutive regular season fourth quarter field goal attempts. He'd already drilled four field goals that afternoon, including 51 and 53-yarders in his most recent attempts. By comparison, a 42 yard field goal should've been easy. A lay-up. Piece of cake. The average kicker converts a kick from that range about three quarters of the time, and Gostkowski had made all but nine of his previous 35 career attempts from 40-49 yards out.
Well, so much for that. Gostkowski's kick sailed wide left, and that was that. Kevin Kolb (filling in for John Skelton-ankle) and company, the indisputable underdogs coming into the game, celebrated their second win of the season while the Pats trudged off the field in disappointment. Tough pill to swallow for Bill Belichick's Patriots, who made costly mistakes and lost their first home opener since 2003 despite accumulating 142 more yards, limiting Larry Firzgerald to just one catch and putting forth a solid defensive effort. To make matters worse, Brady lost one of his most potent weapons when Aaron Hernandez (ankle) left the game on crutches in the first quarter, leaving the offense shorthanded for much of the game. His absence didn't stop Brady from compiling 316 yards on 28-of-46 passing, but #12 failed to throw a touchdown until just before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals have won nine of their past eleven games. The Patriots travel to Baltimore, where they will play the Ravens on Sunday night.