Is Stephen Gostkowski's Time With the Titans Up? Veteran Kicker's Struggles Continue in Loss to Colts

The Tennessee Titans' kicking game malfunctioned spectacularly in a 31-17 home loss against AFC South rivals Indianapolis Colts on Thursday Night Football, which blew the division wide open.

In the third quarter, Trevor Daniel shanked a punt for just 17 yards, allowing the Colts to set up at the Titans' 27-yard line. Indianapolis duly seized the chance to score the go-ahead touchdown through Nyheim Hines, before Colts cornerback T.J. Carrie returned a blocked punt on the following drive.

It was then Stephen Gostkowski's turn to play the villain for Tennessee, missing a 44-yard field goal on the ensuing drive, which would have drawn the Titans within one score of Indianapolis.

Instead, the 36-year-old pulled his kick wide right and Tennessee was made to pay for its mistake, with the Colts putting the game beyond reach in the fourth quarter.

The missed field goal continued a worrying trend for Gostkowski, who has now missed a career-high eight kicks through the first nine weeks of the season. The four-time Pro Bowler has made 12 of his 20 attempts this season, for a career-worst 60 percent conversion rate.

To put the figure into context, half of Gostkowski's successful field goals came when he converted all of his six attempts in the Titans' 31-30 win against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3.

Gostkowski wide right from 44. #Titans' specialists and special teams are destroying them tonight.

— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) November 13, 2020

Titans K Stephen Gostkowski leads NFL with 8 missed FGs.

Tonight there has also been a 17 yard punt and a blocked punt for a TD.

Have to be good in all 3 phases.

— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) November 13, 2020

You Gostkowski be kidding me

— Ty Schalter (@tyschalter) November 13, 2020

Speaking to reporters after the game, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel did not directly criticize the veteran kicker but conceded the team let itself down in key aspects of the game.

"We have to evaluate everything we do," he said. "We all have jobs to do, and we have to do them better."

Gostkowski's inaccuracy is surprising given he has been one of the best kickers in the NFL since being selected by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the 2006 draft.

During a 14-season spell with the Patriots, Gostkowski won three Super Bowls and was named to the Pro Bowl four times. When the Patriots released him in March, Gostkowski left Foxborough as the franchise's all-time scoring leader.

After his recent struggles, however, some wondered whether the Titans would be better off moving on from Gostkowski.

Last game Gostkowski kicks for the #Titans.

Experiment. Over.

— Allan Bell (@AllanBell247) November 13, 2020

Fourteen years later, Stephen Gostkowski has taken Adam Vinatieri's place once again.

— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelStar) November 13, 2020

Gostkowski now 12-for-20 overall, 2-for-7 from 40-49 yards.

— John Glennon (@glennonsports) November 13, 2020

Even more puzzling, the All-Pro kicker remains incredibly reliable on long-range attempts. In the second half of the loss against the Titans he converted a 50-yard field goal, the sixth time this season he has converted a field goal of 50 or more yards on seven attempts.

Gostkowski has been far more fallible from close range. According to NFL data, he has converted 50 percent of his two attempts from 20-29 yards and is 3-of-4 on field goals between 30 to 39 yards.

The picture is even gloomier on field goals from 40 to 49 yards, with the veteran kicker converting just two of seven attempts from that range.

Gostkowski converted seven of eight kicks last year, before he suffered a season-ending injury in Week 4.

He became a free agent in March, before undergoing hip surgery during the offseason and eventually signing a one-year deal worth $2.75 million with the Titans in September.

Tennessee signed him to shore up a kicking unit that ranked last in the NFL last season, when the Titans converted just 44 percent of their 18 field goals, despite using four different kickers.

Stephen Gostkowski, Tennessee Titans
Stephen Gostkowski #3 of the Tennessee Titans kicks a field goal during the first half against the Indianapolis Colts at Nissan Stadium on November 12 in Nashville, Tennessee. Frederick Breedon/Getty