Sep 8, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New England Patriots punter Ryan Allen (6) punts the ball during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Patriots beat the Bills 23 to 21. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots Final Report Card: Special Teams


January 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski (3) against the Denver Broncos in the 2013 AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This is the final entry in the ‘report card’ series on Musket Fire.

Here is the entire series:

QuarterbacksRunning BacksReceiversOffensive LineTight EndsDefensive LineLinebackersCornerbacksSafeties

Final Grade: A-

The only thing that brought this grade down to an A-, was the kick return unit. The Pats ranked 12th in the league in yards per return, and never really showed any spark until LeGarrette Blount broke a few long ones in week 17. Once again, I think that this is an area that New England could afford to upgrade for 2014.

However the rest of this group had a great year. Stephen Gostkowski earned a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, rookie Ryan Allen made all Patriot fans forget about Zoltan Mesko, and Julian Edelman was great once again on punt returns. Gostkowski made numerous clutch kicks throughout the year, most notably at Houston, at home against Denver, and in the season opener in Buffalo. It was probably his best season in the NFL, as he connected on 38 of the 41 field goals he attempted. Allen’s season wasn’t nearly as prolific, but he was ranked 14th in the league in punt average, and dropped 29 punts inside the 20 yard line, which was good for 10th in the NFL. Definitely a good season from the rookie. And lastly, we have Julian Edelman. Not only did the former Kent State quarterback lead the team in receiving, but he was absolutely electric on punt returns. He is one of the most elusive players I have seen in the last decade, and it is rare to see him brought down by the first tackler.

The play of Matthew Slater should also be noted, as he put together another phenomenal campaign. I don’t think there is a better overall special teams player in the league, and his play netted him a third Pro Bowl appearance. Long snapper Danny Aiken had a good year, save for a bad snap in their first playoff game against the Colts. It didn’t end up hurting the Pats, but it definitely wasn’t Aiken’s best moment.

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Tags: Danny Aiken Julian Edelman Matthew Slater New England Patriots Ryan Allen Stephen Gostkowski