Bye-Week Breakdown: Special teams
|10.24.11 at 6:14 pm ET|
With the Patriots off this week, we’ve got our Bye-Week Breakdown, a position-by-position look at the Patriots at the six-week mark. We’ve already examined every one of the rest of the positions so far, and so we finish up with the special teamers.
Depth chart: Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Zoltan Mesko, kick returner/punt returner Julian Edelman (Stevan Ridley and Matthew Slater have also seen time as returners), long snapper Danny Aiken.
Overview: Not bad, not great. Just consistent and dependable. After spending most of last season on the shelf with a quad injury, Gostkowski is 21-for-21 on extra-point attempts, 10-for-11 on field-goal attempts — only missing a 48-yarder in the opener against Miami — and is tied for 15th in the league with 15 touchbacks on kickoffs entering Monday’s games. As for Mesko, even after dealing with a knee injury, he’s 14th in the league with a 39.7 net average. Meanwhile, Edelman is also stepped into the full-time role of kick and punt returner, and has brought the same consistent presence (ninth in the league in punt returns and 17th in the league in kick returns). As a team, the Patriots are also middle of the pack when it comes to punt and kick coverage.
Best moment: In a win over Oakland, Gostkowski hit a 44-yarder, was 3-for-3 on XPAs and put four of his six kickoffs into the end zone, while Mesko averaged 49 yards a punt on his three attempts and the Patriots limited the occasionally dangerous Oakland return team to a starting field position of its own 22-yard line.
Worst moment: Jets kick returner Joe McKnight had a terrific game against the Patriots with five returns for an average of 198 yards, including a second-half return that went for 88 yards (a season-high against the Patriots) and set up a third-quarter touchdown for New York.
By the numbers, according to Nuggetpalooza: Gostkowski has made 33 consecutive fourth-quarter field goals, the longest such streak since they began tracking the stat in 1991 (Gostkowski is followed by Matt Stover, who hit 29 in a row, while Josh Brown is third with 25 straight.)
Money quote: “I think, overall, they’ve both done a pretty solid job. Zoltan, I thought he showed a lot of toughness, both mentally and physically, after he got banged up there [against San Diego and] coming back. He’s done a good job for us with the holding part of the operation, as well as the punting. Like I said, just being there and working through some not ideal situations but being there so we could depend on him and count on him. I’m not sure that would have happened last year, but he’s definitely developing into a good solid player. He works hard and he has a lot better understanding of our game and what we do than he did last year certainly. Stephen, we paced him through training camp with the kickoffs and things like that, but I think he’s had a good solid start, too. There’s a lot of room for improvement there with both of those guys, but at the same time, I think they’ve done a good job for us.” – Patriots coach Bill Belichick, on Mesko and Gostkowski’s performance in 2011.
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