Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Ebner’s blocked punt helped turn the tide

Eric Rueb
FOXBORO — It’s one of the most exciting plays in football and the New England Patriots have had a record amount of them this season.
But Sunday’s blocked punt that helped ignite the Patriots attempted comeback in their 23-17 loss wasn’t something special teams ace Matthew Slater was ready to celebrate.
“You can’t get too excited about it unfortunately,” Slater said. “Because we didn’t get the result we wanted.”
Results aside, what Slater and the rest of the special teams crew is doing this season is something special. Down 23-7 with no offense in sight, the special teams ignited the comeback when Nate Ebner blocked Dustin Colquitt’s punt, giving the Patriots the ball at the KC 19 yard line. Two plays later, Brandon Bolden scored on a 10-yard run.
“We take pride in every aspect of special teams, whether it be a rush situation or hold up situation,” Ebner said. “Whenever we get an opportunity to go out and execute something we worked on all week, we try and take advantage of it.”
It was the fourth blocked punt of the season for the Patriots, which broke the team record of three set in 1986. The NFL record is six set by the 1990 Kansas City Chiefs and the last team with four blocked punts in a season was the 2014 Philadelphia Eagles.
“It’s our goal is to make big plays every week,” Slater said. “You have guys on this team that are here strictly because of special teams, myself included. We feel we have a responsibility to leave a mark on the game.”
Ebner is the fourth different player to block a punt. JC Jackson had the first one against Buffalo that Slater scored on; against the New York Giants it was Chase Winovich scoring on a block by Bolden and against Dallas, Slater blocked one that set up the Patriots first TD of the game.
Sunday, Ebner came through the line to get a clean block on Colquitt as the ball squirted out toward the Patriots sideline at the 19. The play didn’t happen by chance.
“Coaches had a good scheme this week and everybody put a lot of pressure on them, got a little gap and came free,” Ebner said. “It could have been any one of us.”
“Certainly as that play was developing, I felt Nate was going to have a great chance,” Slater said. “The blocking scheme, the way we talked about it during the week, played out a certain way and I felt like Nate would have a chance to make a great play.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has stressed the importance of all three phases and as good as the defense has been this fall, the special teams can make a claim it’s been the best of the three and the blocked points are only a part of it.
“Obviously you’ve got to have some good fortunate. I think things go your way when you block punts, but we really work hard at what we do. We take a lot of pride in our craft,” Slater said. “Nate, Justin [Bethel] and myself, we spend a lot of time with our coaches trying to look at film and see if we can find looks we can take advantage of and we did that tonight.”
But even with their success, the goal Slater and the rest of his unit wanted to achieve Sunday didn’t happen.
“As one of the leaders of the group I’m proud of the way we played,” Slater said, “but you want to win the football game so that’s all that matters.”

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