Patriots Pick Six: Leftovers From Sunday’s Loss to Buffalo

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Dec 28, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) runs the ball against the Buffalo Bills in the second half at Gillette Stadium. Buffalo Bills defeated the Patriots 17-9. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Two: The most underrated aspect of this Patriots team has been the special teams play this season. The New England special teams had a mixed bag game against Buffalo. With Edelman and Amendola returning punts and Amendola solidifying the kickoff return game, the Patriots have had the ability to make big plays in the return game consistently for the first time in a long time.  Both Edelman and Amendola have sure hands and are quick and gain back chunks of yards for the Patriots.

 While Amendola is not as effective returning kicks as he has been with punts, he has added consistency to the position which has been a black hole for the Patriots and bottomed-out with running back LeGarrette Blount taking over as the primary kick returner. In cold and windy Gillette Stadium in January, there is a much lower chance of opposing kickers simply plowing the ball through the back of the end zone and the kickoff return game takes on more importance. Tied in with that, the special teams coverage units, primarily Pro Bowl specialist Matt Slater. In addition, Chris Jones, Vince Wilfork, and Chandler Jones have made big plays blocking kicks and Nate Ebner, Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler have played well on special teams.

 Finally, the specialists have performed well as Stephen Gostkowski had an excellent campaign making 35 of 37 field goal attempts this season including 13 of 14 kicks from 40-yards or beyond. In the kickoff department he has 53 touchbacks on 99 kickoffs and opposing teams’ average starting position following a kickoff has been the 21.6 yard line. Ryan Allen has been good, allowing just 29 of 66 punts to be returned. The second-year punter may never lead the league in any category simply not having the opportunities of other punters on teams with weaker offenses, but for head coach Bill Belichick and special teams coach Scott O’Brien he does what they expect him to do.

 In the post-season, special teams can play a key role and be a huge part of a game whether through blocks, turnovers, field position, or simply executing in the kicking game. New England needs to continue excelling in the third phase of the game to continue their winning ways in January.

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