The Patriots have overcome plenty of injuries this season. On Saturday night, they overcame an injury to a player who performs two key functions on their special teams.
Punter Ryan Allen, flattened while trying desperately to make a play with a ball that had been snapped over his head, exited the game with a shoulder injury. (He managed to execute the free kick following the safety that resulted from the snap snafu.)
Enter kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who punted five times without incident, and quarterback Tom Brady, who held for a pair of extra points.
“Stephen punts in practice and he’s done that before,” coach Bill Belichick told reporters after the game. “Yeah, that was a great job. It 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, haven’t done in several years and come through at a big time. That was a great job by Steve, no question.”
Brady, who said he last held for placekicks at the Orange Bowl in college at Michigan, joked about his extra duties.
“It’s been a while since I’ve done that,” Brady told reporters. “I was happy to help the team. Maybe I’ll try renegotiating my contract or something for doing more work. . . . I don’t even do it in practice. They said, ‘Get in there and do it,’ and I said, ‘What do I say?’ But we figured it out.”
But at least Brady had experience holding in a game. Gostkowski had no experience punting in a game.
“I was really just worried about catching it and getting it off,” Gostkowski told reporters. “That’s the first time I’d ever punted in a game in my life so it was just a challenge and luckily I didn’t let it get me nervous. I felt pretty comfortable out there. I don’t know how, but I think getting off a good first punt helped a little bit too. I just tried not to do too much. . . . I’ve never punted in a game before. It’s one of those things where you really don’t know how you’re going to do. There are so many different things that go into punting with catching the ball, getting the laces around, and doing it all with the timing. They’ve got guys coming at you and [you have to] get the balls off fast enough.”
The severity of Allen’s injury isn’t known, and it may not be known until Wednesday at the earliest, when the first injury report is released. Before then, the Pats could have a Gong Show tryout for available punters.
Or maybe they’ll just stick with Gostkowski punting and Brady holding.