New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

  • The Patriots’ special teams units came into Sunday’s game with revenge on their minds. Considering they ended up making the single biggest play of the game in a big win, it’s safe to say they’ve had their vengeance.

    “Little bit of redemption there,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said after the game. “I know it was personal for [special teams coordinator] Cam [Achord] and [assistant] Joe [Houston] this week. They wanted to make sure we were prepared and could go out and play with confidence and play fast. They did a great job getting us ready and then I think guys just stepped up and executed when they needed to. Kudos to everyone for embracing the challenge, which was issued by coach [Belichick] early in the week.

    “It was no mystery that we didn’t play the way we wanted to last year, so it was nice to come out and do it this year.”

  • The big moment of redemption, of course, was Jonathan Jones’ blocked punt in the second quarter, which set up first-and-goal for the Patriots from the 2-yard line. Rhamondre Stevenson scored the game’s only offensive touchdown two plays later. The sequence put the Patriots in firm control of the game and left the Colts unable to catch up on the scoreboard.

    Credit for the blocked punt is certainly due to Jonathan Jones, who is a regular on the punt return unit. He’s not always at the “jammer” spot, lined up outside against the opposing gunner, but that’s where he initially lined up here. He then moved off the gunner and shaded inside before darting for Colts punter Matt Haack, timing his dive and getting in the way of the ball. Patriots special teams coordinator Cam Achord called the play after picking up on the in-game keys they needed in order to execute the block.

    “Great design by Cam, great execution by Jon,” Slater said. “There’s only a few guys who can go out and execute it the way he did. He timed it up perfectly, Cam called it at the right time, and we took advantage of it.”

    The wind conditions were a major factor in the play. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick explained after the game that the wind mostly blew horizontally toward the Colts’ bench, which was right-to-left on the punt that was blocked. Haack lined up on the left hash mark and was ostensibly attempting to angle his kick to the right. Achord pounced on that alignment with the play-call that led to Jones’ block.

  • Jones himself credited preparation and repetition with helping him get the timing down on the block.

    “It’s a lot of rhythm,” Jones said after the game. “They were kind of doing the same thing, same thing, throughout the year. It’s something we worked on this week to go after and we were able to connect on it.”

    Jones is one of the most versatile players in all of football. He’s mostly lined up at outside corner this season, but has also played slot corner, free safety, and box safety, and even on the line a few times (via Pro Football Focus). He remains a fixture on special teams, where he began his career in New England and started to show off his intelligence and leadership. And you saw on that blocked punt that, with the right call at the right time, he can be a flat-out weapon.

  • The Patriots had a punt blocked for a touchdown in last season’s loss to the Colts, a play that set them back for the rest of the game. Call it revenge or redemption, but it was definitely a satisfying bit of symmetry to see the Pats turn the tables, and to do it with preparation, talent, and execution. Team football.

    And thanks in large part to that singular play by Jones, the Patriots can head into their bye week on a high note.

    “We get a chance to analyze the first half of the season, correct, kind of see how teams are going to be looking to try to attack us in the second half,” Jones said. “But any time you go into a bye week with a win, it’s a great feeling.”

  • Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

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