Tom Brady walked over to the sideline and simply said to the coaching staff, “Let’s just kick the field goal.”
Moments later, Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 41-yarder to clinch a 13-3 win over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, 2019.
That probably will be the last memory many Patriots fans have of Gostkowski, who was released Monday afternoon, a league source confirmed.
The Patriots moved on from Gostkowski, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, just days after Tom Brady departed for Tampa Bay.
The move creates about $2.6 million in salary cap space.
The 36-year-old Gostkowski played 14 seasons in New England after being selected in the fourth round in 2006 out of Memphis. His 2019 season was cut short after four games because of a left hip injury that required surgery.
Gostkowski connected on 374 of 428 field goal attempts and 653 of 664 PATs for 1,775 points in 204 regular-season games.
Additionally, he hit 39 of 44 career field goal attempts in 28 postseason games. Only Brady (41), Adam Vinatieri (32), and Jerry Rice (29) have played in more playoff games. His 205 postseason points trail only Vinatieri (238) all time.
The Patriots don’t have another placekicker on the roster. Nick Folk was solid in taking over for Gostkowski last season, hitting 14 of 17 field goal attempts and all 12 PATs. He remains a free agent. Punter Jake Bailey took over on kickoffs and was outstanding.
Gostkowski had the unenviable task of replacing Vinatieri, a franchise legend, but the club never missed a beat, and Gostkowski (who also was a scholarship pitcher at Memphis) rarely missed a kick.
In addition to Gostkowski’s sterling field goal kicking (his 87.4 percent success rate is tops in franchise history and fifth best in NFL annals), he was adept on kickoffs. He consistently boomed his kicks through the end zone early in his career and later became a master at shorter kicks, allowing his teammates to pin returners deeper than the 25-yard line when touchbacks were moved up.
The Gostkowski transaction makes Matthew Slater the longest-tenured Patriot (he’s heading into year 13) and also the oldest player (he’s 34) on the roster.