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For Tynes and Gostkowski, Super Bowl is a chance to be hero

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- New York's Lawrence Tynes has thought about kicking the winning field goal in the Super Bowl.

"It's something I started dreaming about this week," he said.

"If I'm too worried about the last-second kick, what about the first three quarters?" New England's kicker said.

Keep that in mind when the Patriots and Giants play on Sunday. Depending on the outcome, a late kick could make one of them as famous as Adam Vinatieri -- or as notorious as Scott Norwood.

Two of the Patriots' three Super Bowl victories came on late field goals by Vinatieri, one against the St. Louis Rams in 2002 and the other against the Carolina Panthers in 2004.

Norwood missed a potential winning 47-yarder for Buffalo against the New York Giants in 1991.

Both kickers are etched in Super Bowl lore. Now it could be Tynes' or Gostkowski's turn.

Tynes has already secured a place in the Giants' illustrious history by nailing a 47-yarder in overtime to defeat the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game. What made it sweeter is that Tynes had missed two field goals, including a 36-yarder that would have won the game at the end of regulation.

Since then, Tynes has become something of a celebrity, at least by the modest standards of placekickers. He made an appearance on David Letterman's show and was mobbed by reporters at Super Bowl media day this week.

"It's definitely not my thing," said Tynes, who made 23-of-27 field goals this season (85.2 percent) and 40-of-42 extra points (95 percent).

But the media was just warming up to Tynes, the son of a Scottish mother and a U.S. Navy Seal. He didn't even play football until he was a teenager.

Tynes' brother, Mark, is in an Arkansas prison, serving a 27-year sentence on a drug conviction. Tynes told his brother's story last week, before the Giants left for Arizona. He politely declined to elaborate after arriving in the desert to begin Super Bowl preparations.

"My story's out there about my brother," Tynes said. "I love him. This week is about the Giants and the Super Bowl."

Were it not for Tynes, the Giants might not be in the Super Bowl. But until he kicked the overtime winner, it looked as if his late miss in regulation would keep them out.

After the two missed kicks in Green Bay, television cameras caught Giants coach Tom Coughlin bellowing as Tynes came off the field.

Like Tynes, Gostkowski took a circuitous route to the NFL. He said several colleges yanked their scholarship offers after he had a "bad" senior season in high school, and he considered devoting himself to baseball. He was a standout right-handed pitcher.

"There's times I wanted to quit football," he said. "During college, I thought about maybe just concentrating on baseball. But I stuck with it and I took it seriously every time I did it, and I'm glad it worked out. It's something I worked hard at."

Gostkowski walked on at Memphis and ended up being drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2006 draft. He was tabbed as the successor to Vinatieri, who left to sign with Indianapolis.

New England coach Bill Belichick said the Patriots didn't hesitate to spend a relatively high draft pick on Gostkowski.

"Steve had an outstanding college career," Belichick said. "He's got a good leg. He's accurate. He's a good athlete. He's got a background in baseball, so he's got a good sense of confidence. I don't think the game's too big for him or anything like that. He's a very consistent player."

Gostkowski made 21-of-24 field goal attempts this year (87.5 percent) and all 74 of his extra points.

Three of his field goals came in the Patriots' 38-35 victory over the Giants on Dec. 29. In an interview this week, Gostkowski mentioned those kicks when someone asked him about the possibility of making a last-second kick to beat the Giants in the Super Bowl.

"I had three field goals against the Giants earlier in the year, all in the first half," Gostkowski said. "We won by three (points). Just because it's not the last second doesn't mean they're not big kicks. All I'm worried about Sunday is my first kick."

But the last kick may be the one that everyone remembers. Think of poor Norwood, whose story is a cautionary tale for placekickers.

Gostkowski's family lived in Buffalo at the time and rooted for the Bills. He remembered his father's reaction to the missed kick, which cost him a bundle in a Super Bowl pool.

If he had made that kick, his father "would have won like $600," Gostkowski said. "So they were all mad about that."

Tynes was more sympathetic. He knows that what happened to Norwood can happen to any kicker.

"It's been talked about all week," Tynes said. "It happened. Everything else he probably ever did in his career was washed. You just don't want to be on that side of the story, but if you are, you deal with it."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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