With just under two minutes to go in the first quarter of the AFC Championship, the New England Patriots scored what appeared to be a game-tying touchdown, this after Steven Jackson found the end zone from a yard out.
That score, however, didn’t tie the game at 7. That’s because Stephen Gostkowski missed the ensuing extra point. The Patriots pulled to within 20-18 in the final seconds and had to go for two to tie the game. They didn’t get it.
Denver won and will face Carolina in Super Bowl 50.
Gostkowski was devastated. He had made an NFL-record 523 consecutive PATs before missing Sunday.
“I heard his postgame conference, and he blamed himself,” former NFL kicker and current NFL analyst Jay Feely said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “He said, ‘This loss is on me. I missed that kick.’ As a kicker, when you let your team down, there’s no worse feeling in the world. You feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. He’s been the best kicker in the NFL the last three years. He’s made the Pro Bowl. He’s led the league in scoring the last four years. He’s out-performed everything that Adam Vinatieri did when he was with the Patriots, but now he’s going be remembered for that missed kick – and that’s a very difficult position to be in.”
Gostkowski, to his credit, hit two field goals in the game, connecting on a 46-yarder in the second quarter and a 38-yarder in the third. But it wasn’t enough, as New England was held to its second-lowest scoring output of the season. Tom Brady finished 27-of-56 for 310 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked four times and knocked to the ground early and often.
“It was amazing to watch the pressure that they got on Brady and just the pounding that he took,” Feely said. “Play after play, the defensive line, without blitzing, got home or were able to apply pressure and to get hits on Brady. Even when he was able to get the pass off, it was big hits and hits that resonated throughout the rest of the game. That defensive line deserves a lot of credit. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, getting off the corner, being able to beat the tackles and get pressure and make Brady be uncomfortable (was big). And even when he didn’t have pressure, he felt the pressure. You could see the way he stood in the pocket and was uncomfortable in the pocket. It was a Tom Brady you haven’t seen very often, and it wasn’t necessarily Tom Brady’s fault. It was just a credit to that defensive line and the pressure they got on him.”
Peyton Manning, meanwhile, was 17-of-32 for 176 yards and two touchdowns, both to Owen Daniels. Manning, 39, is now 13-13 in 26 career playoff games and will have a chance to win a second Super Bowl.
“I was very impressed with Peyton Manning out there and very happy for him,” Feely said. “To be as great as he is, to have the legacy he has, to have a losing record in the playoffs, that’s something that hangs around your head and the fact that he’s able to get to .500, has the opportunity to win a second Super Bowl and to get above .500 in his playoff career is a testament to him.”