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Bye-week breakdown: Special teams

11.06.13 at 1:59 pm ET
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With the Patriots off this weekend, we’€™ve got our Bye-Week Breakdown, a position-by-position look at the Patriots. We kick things off with a look at the special teamers.’€¨’€¨

Overview: A really good start to the season for the specialists. Stephen Gostkowski has become one of the best and most consistent kickers in the league — he’s only missed one of his 23 field-goal chances, and his 95.7 conversion rate is second-best among all kickers with at least 20 field-goal attempts. There have been no residual effects from the loss of Zoltan Mesko as the holder, and while rookie Ryan Allen hasn’t reinvented the position, he’s been pretty consistent, dropping 16 of his 49 punt attempts inside the opposing 20-yard line. His 39.9 net is 16th in the league, and hasn’t had a punt blocked. Julian Edelman is one of the best in the league when it comes to punt returning — his career average of 12.7 is best in franchise history and third in NFL history. We’re still not sure what the deal is with the LeGarrette Blount Return Experience — perhaps he’s just keeping the seat warm until Leon Washington is completely healthy — but all in all, a good start to the season for Scott O’Brien’s crew.

Depth chart: Gostkowski (22-for-23 on field goals, 24-for-24 on extra points), Allen (49 punts, 2,273 yards, 46.4 average, 39.9 net, 16 inside the 20), long snapper Danny Aiken, Edelman (26 returns, 299 yards, 11.5 average), Blount (15 returns, 349 yards, 23.3 average).

Best moment: Lots of of good moments for the specialists to this point in the season. Gostkowski connected on one game-winning field goal (against Bills), one at the end of regulation that forced overtime (against Jets) and a career-best 54-yarder against the Saints. Edelman has had punt returns of 43 and 38 yards, and his 11.5 average is second among all punt returners with at least 25 opportunities.

Worst moment: It wasn’t one of the specialists, but the breakdown at the end of the second Jets game — where Chris Jones was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on a late field goal attempt from Nick Folk — was likely the biggest letdown of the season for the season on special teams.

By the numbers: 4.2. According to Team Rankings, the average number of touchbacks per game for Gostkowski over the course of the first nine games. It’s third-best in the league, trailing only Denver (5.8) and Carolina (4.4).

Money quote: ‘€œI think Steve has had a real solid camp and a real solid year. He’€™s kicked off extremely well, not only distance but even the hang time kicks. Some of the balls that have been returned had quite a bit of air under them so we had a chance to cover them. He’€™s made a lot of big kicks for us and he’€™s given us a lot of dependability there at that position, even though we’€™ve had some transition with the punter and the snapper over the last three, four, five years. But Steve is very focused and he’€™s got a lot of mental toughness. He doesn’€™t let other things bother him. He just tries to do his job and he’€™s done it pretty well. He’€™s a solid football player too.” — Bill Belichick on Gostkowski, Oct. 18.

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