Pats Have Big Problems On Special Teams

Ian Logue
October 14, 2001 at 3:38 pm ET

FOXBORO, MA — Does anyone happen to have Sean Morey’s phone number?

Someone please tell me why they call them special teams, because I just don’t see it. New England is having one heck of a time with their special teams unit covering on kickoffs, and unless kicker Adam Vinatieri kicks a touchback, you might as well automatically place the other team at the 35-40 yard line because that’s generally where they’re going to start from.

People can complain all they want about the fact that Vinatieri doesn’t kick touchbacks every time (like anyone in the league does), but anyone who saw Sunday’s game has to realize that their problems are deeper than that. Each time Vinatieri kicked off we all watched the ball hang in the air for a while and come down inside the ten yard line on every kick. But for some reason the players are getting down the field late, and those who are arriving in time to keep the return man inside the 20, every one of them is getting beat badly. To make matters worse players who have the simple task of containing the outside on the return are getting pulled inside and then letting their man go outside where he is generally not brought down until after he’s gotten to somewhere past the 30-yard line.

This happens nearly every single time, and they’re going to need to do something about it soon.

We’re all aware of the fact that former Patriot Sean Morey can’t play receiver in the NFL, and probably will never have the opportunity to play as a defensive back either, but it was certainly frustrating watching him as the only player to come up big on special teams in preseason, only to later get cut. Morey was repeatedly the first man down the field on kick-offs and generally the guy who either made or helped make the tackle. But for some odd reason Bill Belichick felt that didn’t matter enough to keep him around and he may be paying for that right now.

The Chargers had 7 kickoff returns for 214-yards and averaged 30.6 yards per return. In contrast New England had 6 kickoff returns for 117 yards and averaged a mere 19.5-yards per return. Five times on the afternoon following a Patriot kick-off San Diego started their drive beyond their own 30-yard line, and two of which they began from past their own 40. As for the Patriots only once did they begin from beyond their own 30-yard line following a Charger kick-off.

That is a big problem, especially when you are giving your opponent excellent field position to begin their drive.

Maybe they’re having a problem because they have several people who play on both offense or defense who are also being called upon to play on special teams and they are just tired. Maybe it’s because they’re not staying in their lanes and there’s too much time being spent trying to make the “big hit”. Maybe it’s bad coaching.

Who knows.

Whatever it is, they’re going to need to fix it, and they better do it soon. Their lack of being able to cover on kickoffs is causing their defense too many problems and putting them in bad situations to begin with. For anyone hoping that Vinatieri is going to kick a touchback every time, it’s just not realistic. If they can’t keep opponents from returning the ball past the 30-yard line when the ball is landing at the 3, there are going to be big problems.

New England was lucky to win on Sunday considering the type of field position that they gave up, and credit the defense for making that happen. But enough is enough. They aren’t making progress in this area, and it’s eventually going to catch up with them.

Shame on them for cutting the only player that showed he could cover kick-offs and block punts during preseason. They certainly appear to be paying for it now. Whether or not he could have done it all season long would have been another story, but we’ve yet to see anyone else show that they can.

Whether or not we ever will this season remains to be seen.



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