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With Stephen Gostkowski sustaining a season-ending thigh injury this past weekend against the Cleveland Browns, Greg A. Bedard reports that the Patriots will be looking to Shayne Graham to close out the season at the kicker position.
Graham, who made 23 of 30 field goals last season, was let go by the Bengals after missing two crucial field goals in a playoff game in which the team lost by 10 points to the New York Jets.
Graham has only played one game this season, for the New York Giants, so presumably he will have some rust to shake off. Gostkowski has a franchise-best field goal rate of 84.3 percent, so it’s no question Graham will have some big shoes to fill. But the area the Pats will miss Gostkowski the most is in opposing field position. Gostkowski can really launch the ball, and is known for getting a lot of touchbacks. Graham doesn’t do nearly as well in this category, with only 13.4 percent of his kicks in the last two-plus seasons being touchbacks (to Gostkowski’s 23.2 percent).
A downgrade? Sure. But as far as being in a tight bind while being tied for the best record in the NFL, the Patriots could have done a lot worse. The former Bengals kicker is pretty consistent, and a decent backup replacement. Graham will have a big test right out of the gates this coming Sunday, when the Patriots face the stingy Pittsburgh defense, which will surely force New England to settle for field goals at least a couple of times, assuming they can have an effective offense at all. He won’t have much time to get settled, so hopefully he can be effective right away.