Slater's displeasure with Sunday special teams obvious

Slater's displeasure with Sunday special teams obvious
January 14, 2013, 9:16 pm
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FOXBORO -- Know this: Matthew Slater is a stand-up guy. 
Slater is a five-year veteran though seems well wiser. He's captain of New England's special teams unit, but can be counted on to answer nearly anything in a thoughtful manner. 
When he spoke Monday after New England's 41-28 Divisional Playoff win over Houston, something was different. Slater wasn't smiling. His answers were brief. 
As far as Patriots special teams were concerned, the captain wasn't happy.
"We gotta get better." 
Kickoff return coverage was as bad against the Texans as it's been all season. New England gave up 216 yards to Houston safety Danieal Manning alone, including 94 yards on the game's opening boot. 
Sunday night Slater said the unit would have to watch the film to better understand what went wrong. This afternoon, after Monday's meetings, he was asked what he learned. 
"There were several breakdowns."
Well. He's not wrong. New England allowed the third-fewest yards per kickoff return (20.7)  in 2012's regular season. Manning averaged 54.0 yards per attempt Sunday. 
Any issues must be fixed before the Patriots host Baltimore in the AFC Championship. 
Ravens receiver Jacoby Jones is a handful for any team. Jones was recently named both to the AFC Pro Bowl team as well as the Associated Press' All-Pro squad. No player had a better kickoff return average than his 30.7 yards. No player had more kickoffs brought in for touchdowns than Jones' two. 
Slater expressed the urgency in preparing for Baltimore, for Jones.  
"It's very important. We know we need to perform better," Slater said. "We can't put our defense in bad situations, like I said last night. But we're on to the next game. We've got to prepare for Jacoby Jones. We know how good he is and what he's capable of." 
The plan for making corrections is simple enough. 
"Just go back to the basics," Slater explained. "Go back to the fundamentals and the rules that we have as coverage players. Just doing out job better and doing our assignments better. 
"It's been a strength for us this season; kickoff coverage has been a strength for us. I'm confident that we'll get it fixed."