FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Stephen Gostkowski sat in his locker, his back to an ever-growing mob of television cameras, microphones and recorders, as he pulled on his socks and put on his sneakers.

As he turned to face everyone, the crowd surged so that microphones were not half-an-inch from his face.

“Scoot back guys, could you?” he asked. If he was going to talk, he needed a little space.

Gostkowski, you see, was Interview Target No.1 in the New England Patriots locker room Sunday afternoon after the home team suffered a stunning 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals at Gillette Stadium.

After making four field goals, including kicks from 51 yards and 53 yards, Gostkowski missed a 42-yard field goal wide left with one second remaining that could have won the game for New England.

He didn’t just miss it. The ball never had a chance once it left his foot.

“Well you know, we had an opportunity to win the game,” he said. “Had had a good game up to that point. I felt good going out there. It’s just one of those things that, ah, you get opportunities like that not very often and I’ve got to do a lot better job of coming through for the team.

“We had a chance to win and it came down to me and I didn’t pull through. It stinks and I feel bad for the fans and my teammates. I went out there and felt good, I just didn’t execute.”

Gostkowski, who had made his previous 15 field goal attempts (going back to last year’s playoffs), said it wasn’t the smoothest hit he had made on a ball on Sunday.

“I looked up and saw it was left,” he said. “Sometimes the ball just doesn’t fly your way. It humbles you pretty quick.”

Such is the life of an NFL kicker. One minute you’re being congratulated on making a long kick, the next you’re standing in front of everyone, having to explain your latest failure.

Gostkowski has been in this position before. He’ll be in it again.

“I’m not scared to fail, it stinks when you do,” he said. “But I wouldn’t go out there every day if I was scared to screw up. I’ll feel bad about this for a couple of days. I’m sure I’ll get ripped for this by the fans and stuff. And it’s well deserved.

“My teammates have my back. No one feels worse about missing the kick then I do. You’ve just got to move on, get over it. It’s the good ones that get over bad games that will last a while. And if I let this affect me negatively, then I’m not doing my job.”

His teammates do have his back. The Patriots know they didn’t play well at all.

In losing their first home opener at Gillette Stadium since it opened 12 years ago, the Patriots squandered numerous opportunities, made some head-scratching play calls and looked nothing like a team many observers expect to win the AFC East.

“There’s no one play that lost the game,” said Tom Brady. “We did a lot of things that allowed us to lose this game.”

And that final drive clearly illustrated that point.

Trailing 20-18, New England’s defense made a stand, Brandon Spikes forcing a fumble that was recovered by Vince Wilfork at the Cardinals 30 with 1:01 left.

On second down, Danny Woodhead ran for an apparent touchdown, nullified on a holding penalty on Rob Gronkowski 10 yards downfield.

Brady followed with a 12-yard pass to Wes Welker for a first down at the 18. But Gronkowski (again) was penalized 5 yards for a false start.

Brady then moved the ball into the center of the field on a sneak (losing a yard) and spiked the ball to stop the clock.

Everything was set up for Gostkowski. This time, though, he couldn’t come through.

Maybe it wasn’t the smartest idea, considering the Cardinals excel at blocking field goals: 13 since 2008 to lead the NFL.

“We put a lot of pressure on a lot of field goal teams,” said cornerback Patrick Peterson. “I think he was a little scared of us, honestly. That is why he pushed it left.”

The Patriots don’t buy that.

“Stephen’s a great kicker,” said Woodhead. “I think everyone here in this half-circle knows that. I think everyone in the league knows that. It’s not one play that loses.

“We’re a team in wins and losses.”

And now the Patriots have one of each.

Mike Lowe — 791-6422

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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