FOXBOROUGH — Though it won’t count officially since it happened in the preseason, the highlight of Friday night’s 30-7 Patriots victory over the Panthers may have been Stephen Gostkowski’s 60-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the first half. The kick gave New England a 13-0 lead at the break.
It was the longest Gostkowski had ever attempted in a game, and had it been a regular-season contest, would have been the longest in franchise history; currently Adam Vinatieri’s 57-yarder against Chicago in 2002 is the tops.
“Any kicker in the NFL can kick one 60 yards. It’s just a matter of kicking it straight, and when the pressure’s on, it’s a different story,” Gostkowski said. “The main thing is to try not to overkick, because your adrenaline is running and you’re going to get distance, so I just tried to think of a nice, smooth swing, kind of like when I golf and actually hit the fairway.”
His teammates were as excited for Gostkowski as he was; he was greeted with smiles, high-fives, and pats on the back as he made his way back to the sideline.
“Oh, man,” Matthew Slater said. “He works so hard at it. You can’t say anyone on the team works harder at his craft than he works at his.”
Coach Bill Belichick said the end-of-half scenario, and the wind at Gostkowski’s back contributed to the decision to let him try the kick.
“It was a great kick. It was a good situation for us,” Belichick said. “I think it really visually now gives our offense as clear of a picture as they could possibly have of where we need to get to, how much a couple of extra yards means in that situation, and hopefully we can make those kicks when we get to the regular season.”
Facing such a long kick actually worked in Gostkowski’s favor, at least mentally.
“The thing about making a long field goal like that, there’s really no expectations,” Gostkowski said. “It’s really a win-win situation, because no one really expects you to make it. So it really kind of puts your mind at ease.
“We got out there a little late and the play clock was running down and I really didn’t get to aim — I just kind of kicked it. Luckily the wind blew it enough to the left, a nice little draw, and it just fell in there.
“It was cool seeing everyone get excited like that. It was a pretty cool experience.”
Devey makes case
When the Patriots began shuffling the offensive line, particularly at right guard, the list of candidates included Josh Kline, Braxton Cave, and rookie Jon Halapio.
But through the first two preseason games, it has been Jordan Devey in the position.
If he sticks on the 53-man roster, Devey would be yet another offensive lineman the Patriots developed on the practice squad, and another who didn’t play football in high school.
A native of American Fork, Utah, Devey suffered from Osgood-Schlatter disease in junior high, a painful knee condition that hits children in puberty, during their growth spurt.
He did play at Snow College, a junior college in his home state, and then went on to play at Memphis, where the 6-foot-6-inch, 317 pounder was named the team’s MVP as a senior.
Undrafted last year, Devey initially signed with the Ravens, but was among their final cuts. Baltimore signed him to its practice squad, but he lasted all of one day there. The Patriots signed him a day later.
This week, Bill Belichick praised Devey’s development.
“I think he’s improved a lot from last year. He’s had a good offseason. He’s worked really hard,” Belichick said. “He’s a smart guy. His fundamentals have improved. His strength is better. His offseason program was very productive.
“[Strength and conditioning coaches] Harold Nash and Moses [Cabrera] and their program, he was really able to take advantage of that and put himself in a very competitive position.”
Watching the action
There were 12 Patriots not in uniform against the Panthers. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui, receiver Aaron Dobson, offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer, defensive tackles Chris Jones, Sealver Siliga, and Dominique Easley, running backs Brandon Bolden and Tyler Gaffney, offensive linemen Bryan Stork and Chris Martin, and linebacker Cameron Gordon.
Linebackers Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower were in uniform, but neither played. Mayo returned to practice this week after missing last week for an unspecified reason.
Also, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, defensive linemen Jerel Worthy and Ben Bass, and receiver Jeremy Gallon were all in uniform for the first time in the preseason.
Root for home team
The Boston College football team attended the game. The Eagles, who broke camp with a scrimmage Wednesday, no doubt combined a site visit to the venue of their season opener against the University of Massachusetts Aug. 30 with a team field trip to see former BC star Luke Kuechly, Carolina’s starting middle linebacker.
“A little of everything,’’ texted BC coach Steve Addazio, who accompanied the team to the game and sat in Section 201.