November 28, 2012

Patriots truly displaying 'special' teams of late

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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New England Patriots' Julian Edelman (11) returns a fumble for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

McCourty was chosen for the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2010 and anchors the secondary at safety after shifting from cornerback after the sixth game. He takes his special teams responsibilities just as seriously.

"You can make a lot of big plays on special teams and I'm on a couple of them," McCourty said. "It's key for me to do my role on that special team and try to make plays as well."

Scoring on special teams also can give the offense more time on the sideline to rest and plan. If a player returns a punt or kickoff for a touchdown, Tom Brady can watch his defense go right back out on the field.

"It's a great thing to happen for a team," he said. "We've been fortunate the last few weeks. I don't think there's really an advantage for our offense sitting over there. I'd prefer to be out there playing. But if we're scoring points, that's a great thing."

Making contributions on special teams is important for players, whether they score or not. It can lead to long careers they wouldn't have if they had to get by only on their offensive or defensive talents.

Slater has just one reception in five seasons with the Patriots but leads the team with 14 special teams tackles and has 72 in his five pro seasons, all with New England. Martin has five in three games with the Patriots and 62 in his career that began with Baltimore in 2006.

"We're a very close knit group of guys," Slater said. "We understand how we're going to keep jobs in this league and we take a lot of pride in what we're doing."

Especially when the emphasis the Patriots put on special teams leads to big plays and victories.

"You're not counting on the special team to score every game. It's just not realistic for that to happen," Slater said. "But when it does happen, it brings a huge momentum swing to the game. In the case of the last two weeks, it's been huge for us."

And the teams that don't stress special teams as much?

"Those are usually teams," Martin said, "that are losing."

 

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