Patriots take pride in special teams work

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Patriots take pride in special teams work

FOXBORO -- The importance of special teams play should not be judged by how often Bill Belichick is asked about it.

Many of the queries New England's head coach fields regard the sexy stuff: Headlining roster transactions, suspensions, fierce opponents, game-changing plays.

The thing is, Belichick values special teams so highly, he'd be more likely to talk about that than what player broke which rule on whatever day.

Which is exactly what he did Monday.

"I think that Scott OBrien and Joe Judge, our two special teams coaches, do a great job of coaching the players and taking the young guys and improving them and watching some of our younger guys perform for us in the kicking game, as well as some of our veteran players and just bringing it all together," Belichick said.

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski and punter Zoltan Mesko, have done an excellent job this season with giving the Patriots optimal field position.

But that's not all.

"Of course, it always comes down to good execution by the specialists. Weve had production by the return game here in the second half of the season. Our coverage units have been pretty solid all year but anytime you can turn the ball over, those are huge plays."

The Patriots have had a few of those lately.

Two weeks ago against the Colts, Julian Edelman returned a punt for a touchdown. In this past Thursday's Thanksgiving night game New England forced a fumble on a Jets kick return, which Edelman recovered and ran back for six points.

Special teams captain Matthew Slater said the recent success doesn't have anything to do with his group doing anything differently in practice, with changing preparation. The usual hard work is just finally materializing on game day.

Slater is obviously thrilled. 

"I think those are huge momentum plays," he said of the scores. "When you look at a game, you're not counting on special teams to score every game -- it's just not realistic for that to happen. But when it does happen it brings a huge momentum swing to the game. In the case of the last two weeks it's been huge for us, as far as getting momentum going and allowing us to get some separation against our opponent."

Belichick believes New England's special teams cohesion is a credit to the captain.

"Matt Slater has done a great job as the captain of the special teams with his leadership and making it a total cohesive unit even though its six different units but its still more players on all of them. Hes doing a great job with that this year."

So maybe it's not the NFL's most glamorous role; Belichick knows it's an invaluable unit that's been paying dividends for the Patriots this season.

Good enough for his players.

"We're a very close-knit group of guys," Slater smiled. "We understand what our role is in this league, we understand how we're going to keep jobs in this league, and we take a lot of pride in what we do."

Patriots-Rams inactives: Slater, Coleman, Richards out

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Patriots-Rams inactives: Slater, Coleman, Richards out

FOXBORO -- The inactive lists for today's Patriots-Rams game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
S Jordan Richards
WR Matthew Slater
DL Woodrow Hamilton
RB D.J. Foster
T LaAdrian Waddle
DL Darius Kilgo
CB Justin Coleman

PATRIOTS-RAMS PREGAME

LOS ANGELES RAMS
WR Tavon Austin
DE Robert Quinn
QB Sean Mannion
TE Temarrick Hemingway
OL Rodger Saffold
DB Steve Williams
OL Pace Murphy

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling at the Bruins setting a franchise record this season for fewest practices in a regular season. Thanks compacted schedule due to the World Cup!

*Pavel Zacha is adjusting to life as a rookie in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils, and things are getting better as they go along.

*Manitoba Moose players relive their favorite Star Wars moments prior to the team holding their Star Wars Night.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Friedman sits down with new Florida Panthers head coach Tom Rowe to discuss the massive changes in that organization with the firing of Gerard Gallant.

*Good for Anders Nilson putting a rainbow decal on the back of his goalie to mask to support some gay friends that have faced public resistance in their lives.

*Bruce Garrioch has his weekly NHL notes with several players, including Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald, potentially on the trade block if anybody wants them.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson suffering a broken leg that will keep him out 6-8 weeks.

*There was no blood for the Vancouver Canucks fans, but there was still plenty of drama in a win over the Maple Leafs.

*For something completely different: The World Baseball Classic works for everybody except for Major League Baseball, and that would appear to be a problem.