Let’s start by discussing the fourth leading scorer in Patriots history, John Smith. Smith is best known for a singular moment in 1982 famously known as “The Snowplow Game”. In the sixth game of the strike-shortened 1982 season, the desperate Patriots were deadlocked at zero in a snowstorm in Foxborough. Late in the fourth, Patriots coach Ron Meyer ordered snowplow operator Mark Henderson to clear a spot on the field specifically for Smith. He drilled the 33-yarder to give the Patriots the win. Ultimately, Miami defeated New England in the playoffs in sunny Florida, but the snowplow game will not soon be forgotten.
Smith enjoyed a lengthy career with the Pats. He came over to the US from his homeland, England, and being a superb soccer player he asked the Patriots for a tryout. They liked what they saw. He ended up wearing #1 for the Patriots for 10 years. He led the NFL in scoring in 1979 and 1980 and made the Pro Bowl following an excellent 1980 campaign.
First Super Bowl kicker
Tony Franklin has the distinction of being the first Patriots player to ever score in a Super Bowl. Early in the first quarter of Super Bowl XX, Franklin’s field goal helped New England take advantage of a Walter Payton fumble. Unfortunately, Chicago scored the next 44 points in that ball game. Franklin kicked for New England for four seasons following a successful career with the Eagles where he kicked in one Super Bowl for them. His 1986 season was the best of his ten-year career. He was rewarded with a Pro Bowl appearance. Franklin was a popular player in the 1980’s due to the fact that he did not wear a shoe on his kicking foot.
Franklin is a Texas A&M legend as he kicked three 60-yard field goals with the Aggies including two in one game! His time with the Patriots came to end after a poor 1987 season.
Doug Flutie was the only player of significance to wear jersey #2 with the Patriots. But, he had one incredibly unique career. He reached superstar status at Boston College. His 1984 senior season with BC was simply epic. He won the Heisman Trophy and authored one of the greatest victories in college football history when his “Hail Mary” defeated the Miami Hurricanes.
As a professional, Flutie ran the full gamut of performances and emotions. He started his career with a good season as a New Jersey General in the USFL. His next stop found him in Chicago where he backed up Jim McMahon. He played a terrible game for the 14-2 Bears as they got eliminated from the NFC playoffs by the Redskins. He was traded to the Patriots during the 1987 season and basically used as a fourth string QB. In 1988, Flutie got an opportunity to start and posted a 6-3 record as the starter. However, Raymond Berry turned to veterans Tony Eason and Steve Grogan in the last game at Denver. Flutie only played a few more games with the Pats after that in 1989 before bolting to the CFL.
Flutie came back to the NFL eight years later and had a memorable stint with Buffalo. He finished his career as a third-stringer for the 2005 Patriots, again wearing #2. Coach Belichick allowed Flutie to get into the meaningless season finale to attempt a dropkick for an extra point. Flutie nailed it to a raucous ovation.
Matt Bahr spent the last two-plus seasons of his illustrious 17-year career with the Patriots. Bill Parcells brought him in to light a fire under the struggling Scott Sisson. Bahr was so solid, Sisson was released. Bahr was drafted by the Steelers in 1979 and proceeded to kick in the Super Bowl as a rookie. Eleven seasons later, he kicked the New York Giants into the big game with a tremendous performance in an upset over San Francisco in the NFC championship game.
He joined the Patriots late in 1993 and for the first time, he wore jersey #3. He had two pretty good seasons, but was beat out for the kicking job during the 1996 preseason. The kicker that took over the job: Adam Vinatieri.
The kicker that replaced Vinatieri: Stephen Gostkowski. Gostkowski has worn #3 for New England now for 12 seasons. As is true for most kickers who do it for a long time, he has had some excellent moments and some miserable ones kicking for the Patriots. Overall, Gostkowski is one of the most accurate kickers in the history of the National Football League with an astounding 87.6 accuracy.
Perhaps his greatest moment occurred during the 2015 regular season at the New York Giants. It has been well-documented how the G-men always give the Pats fits in the Eli Manning era. And this game was no different. It was an exciting back and forth affair. After a dropped interception and a fourth down conversion, Tom Brady got the Patriots down to the 36-yard line with enough time for a game-winning field goal attempt. The kick was true and New England defeated their old nemesis thanks to the strong leg of Gostkowski.
Unfortunately, since the PAT has been moved back, Gostkowski has missed an extra point in three consecutive seasons in the playoffs. His miss at Denver in the AFC championship game may have cost the Patriots their shot at the Super Bowl.
However, Gostkowski has been a superb player for the Pats through the years. He is a great teammate and beloved in the community for his charity work.
A Top Punter From the 80’s
Rich Camarillo is a final #3 we’ll look at. Camarillo was one of the better punters in the league back in the 1980’s. His seven seasons with the Patriots was highlighted by a Pro Bowl appearance and some of the best playoff punting in NFL history. His nine-punt, 50-yard average in a playoff loss at Denver was bittersweet. The Patriots were obviously punting way too much. However, Camarillo gave New England a chance to win at Mile High Stadium.
Camarillo’s best days came with the Phoenix Cardinals. He made four Pro Bowls in five seasons there including a first-team All-Pro nod. His career was not perfect, though. In a 1990 game at Buffalo, Camarillo booted a punt that was knocked backwards due to the winds!
Adam Vinatieri is probably the most popular placekicker in NFL history. He has played 22 seasons and shows no signs of slowing down. He beat out Matt Bahr for the kicking job in the 1996 preseason. In his rookie year, he instantly gained acclaimed for his effort in tackling speedster Herschel Walker on a kickoff return. He had no such luck in Super Bowl XXXI when Desmond Howard took one of his kicks to the house ending New England’s bid for their first World championship.
Vinatieri was instrumental in the Patriots capturing three out of four titles in the next decade. His game-tying kick in the “Tuck Rule” game will always be his signature kick. When his 45-yarder in a snowstorm split the uprights, a dynasty was born. He ended both Super Bowl XXXVI and Super Bowl XXVIII with game-winning field goals in the most pressure-packed of situations. The latter came after a poor performance in Houston against the Panthers. He won one more Super Bowl with the Patriots.
Vinatieri to the Colts
Vinatieri added one more Super Bowl with Indianapolis. Miraculously, he has now played 12 of his seasons out there and has performed magnificently as a member of the Colts. No doubt, being in the comforts of Indy’s indoor stadium has surely added to his longevity. In fact, last season, he only made one of three kicks in the wretched Buffalo weather. But, overall, his output is still strong. He even won a special-teamer of the week award earlier this season in a win against the 49ers where he boomed two 50-yarders.
One day, Vinatieri will take his place in Canton in the Pro Football Hall of Fame!
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills