The special teams for New England was anything but special last Sunday versus the Houston Texans. The Patriots special team unit gave up returns of 94, 69, and 35 yards to Texans Safety, Daniel Manning, and all of those returns set up, 17 points of the Texans 28 points. The defense had a great showing, but a few times, thanks to the special team, they were on a short field, playing with their backs to the wall. The special teams contributed to 17 points. That is far to many for this special teams, to many points that they can’t give up if they want to help the Patriots win the AFC Championship game rather then lose it.
The New England defense has improved a lot through out the season but they can’t play with their backs to the wall routinely and expect to not give up points. This defense plays stout and sometimes plays a bend but don’t break style, so the special teams can’t make it any harder on the Patriots defense, not against the Ravens offense. Give this Ravens offense a short field to work with, they are going to score because they have built their selves for deep play making ability to score. If the special teams can contribute to making stops on punt returns and kick returns then the Patriots have an excellent chance at winning the game.
The Ravens special team has a returner more dangerous then Daniel Manning and that is former Texans player, Jacoby Jones. Jones has been named an All Pro on special teams for averaging 30.7 yards and two touchdowns. Jones is dangerous, and if New England’s special team plays like it did last Sunday then the Patriots special teams are in for a long day.
Matthew Slater, the best special team player on New England thinks they have it figured out for this week’s game. Slater said on Monday “We gotta get better, It’s very important. We know we need to perform better. We can’t put our defense in bad situations, so we’re onto the next game; we’ve got to prepare for Jacoby. We know how good he is and what he’s capable of.” Slater went on to say “I’m confident we’ll have it fixed.” Lets hope he is right. Against the 49ners, the special team allowed an 62 yard return by the 49ners LaMichael James, which cost the Patriots the game. The special teams need to be more clutch, the Patriots, otherwise, had been better through out the season on kick offs, but as we all know, the regular season means nothing when it is playoff time. The special teams need to step up and play a lot better in this Sunday’s game.
Belichick offered words about the special teams unit”Of course it’s disappointing. Those are plays that you don’t want to happen, certainly not three of them in one game. That’s not what we want. That’s not good enough. It has to be better.”
Slater on how it needs to be fix “just go back to basics, go back to fundamental rules that we have as players, and just doing our assignments better.”