After pushing 56- and 49-yard field-goal attempts near the end of the second and third periods, respectively, Folk overcompensated and pushed a 31-yarder wide left on Tampa Bay's first fourth-quarter drive. The miss earned him boos from Bucs fans at Raymond James Stadium.
At the time of his third missed kick, the Bucs were nine points behind New England, a three-field goal deficit.
Folk admitted after the loss that he deserves some blame for the defeat, telling reporters, per the Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman, "We left points out there. We should have won the game, 20-19. This one's on me"
Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter told reporters that, after speaking with general manager Jason Licht after the game, a chat on the state of the kicking position is "forthcoming", but that they "don't want to make any rash decisions."
Folk, a veteran kicker who was a reliable threat -- a Folk hero, even -- with the Jets for seven seasons, has been under the telelens ever since the start of training camp. Folk was brought in to compete with embattled second-year kicker Roberto Aguayo, who didn't live up to his second-round draft selection in his rookie season. When Aguayo flamed out in the preseason, the Bucs cut him on national television, handing the job to Folk.
Since winning the job by default, Folk has struggled. He missed a field goal and an extra point in Tampa Bay's narrow win over the Giants in Week 3, nearly sinking the Buccaneers' ship; Folk's game-winner salvaged the wreckage. His 0-for-3 shank-a-palooza on Thursday night did. Folk is 6 for 11 on field goals and 7 for 9 on extra points through four games.
"Been a bad week," Folk said. "From the start of last Sunday to today. Bad week."
Koetter didn't see Folk's woes coming.
"It's unfortunate because ... he's been really solid in practice, the thing that happened last week kind of came out of left field," he told reporters after the game. "There was no real indication that was coming. We only kicked live in practice one day this week, and Nick was lights out.
"So again, these last two weeks haven't been exactly what we're looking for. Of course, Nick will be the first to admit that. But still, it's a team game. We had other opportunities."
But in a season that has already seen out-of-nowhere success stories at the kicking position -- Jake Elliott and Harrison Butker banging out winners at home; Greg Zuerlein going 7-for-7 in Jerryworld; and Giorgio Tavecchio earning a game ball after making four field goals on a day's notice -- Tampa's never-ending field-goal woes stick out like a sore foot.
How they correct that course won't just be the difference between winning and losing games, but between making and missing the postseason.