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Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Gostkowski & new kickoff rule

By Mike Reiss

How will the NFL's new kickoff rules -- specifically spotting the ball at the 35-yard line instead of the 30 -- affect the Patriots?

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski has one of the stronger legs in the NFL, so at first glance, it should help the club. Here is a breakdown of Gostkowski's work on kickoffs in the seven games he played in last year before sustaining a season-ending quad injury:

Total kickoffs: 40
Kickoffs in end zone: 22 (15 of which were touchbacks)

Now here is a look at what the numbers would be if adding an additional 5 yards:

Total kickoffs: 40
Kickoffs in end zone: 29

So if using Gostkowski's kickoffs as a barometer, the Patriots would have had the opportunity for seven more touchbacks under the new rules.

One aspect noted by Patriots coach Bill Belichick is that the ball carries farther earlier in the season for those teams playing games outside, so a full season's worth of kickoffs would provide an even more accurate snapshot.

One additional thought: The one kickoff return that went for a touchdown against the Patriots last season -- vs. the Bills in Week 3 -- came down on the 5-yard line. Perhaps the additional 5 yards would have led to a different result.