By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

FOXBORO (CBS) — The New England Patriots employ the third-most accurate kicker in NFL history, a three-time Super Bowl champion who has proven capable of kicking in even the most harsh and difficult conditions imaginable. When it comes to having a reliable kicker under your employ, it would be hard to be in a better position than the Patriots.

At the same time … there appears to be a budding Stephen Gostkowski problem.

That’s not to say that the 35-year-old kicker has suddenly lost all of his kicking abilities. But he in the midst of a rough stretch — one that continued on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.

Following a nine-play, 88-yard touchdown drive, Gostkowski took the field for a standard point after attempt. That kick, though, sailed to the right. It was no good.

If the miss were an aberration, it would not warrant much mention. But it does come after Gostkowski missed two PATs and one field goal in Miami a week ago.

Gostkowski said after that game that he “stunk,” and he likely took the field Sunday looking to show that it was a mere blip in an otherwise nearly automatic career. Nevertheless, given his first chance to show that he’s back to normal, Gostkowski booted one wide right.

Gostkowski didn’t have to wait long to get another chance, as the Patriots scored their second touchdown of the game just 3:29 after the first TD. On that chance, Gostkowski’s kick split the uprights, drawing a (partially sarcastic) roar from the home crowd as the Patriots took a 13-0 lead.

He finished the day 1-for-1 on field goals and 3-for-4 on PATs.

It’s obviously not exactly a crisis that the kicker missed a few kicks in September. But for a team that always plans to play through February, it is a situation that will continue to be monitored in the days and weeks to come.

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