Special teamers in spotlight

In a piece now posted on ESPNBoston.com, Mike Reiss examines the importance of the third phase of the game -- special teams -- while shining the spotlight on some of the Patriots' key players.

One losing team had its chance to send the game into overtime dashed by a missed 32-yard field goal. The other losing team fumbled a punt deep in its territory to essentially give the game away.

If ever there was a set of back-to-back games that highlighted the importance of special teams, last week's AFC and NFC championships were them.

Often overlooked as the third phase of the game, behind offense and defense, it's the area where teams' more anonymous players often toil. Just don't call them any less important, as last week's stunning results showed.

Reiss speaks with special teams captain Matthew Slater as well as linebacker Niko Koutouvides.

"I call it the hidden yardage in football and it gets magnified in the playoffs. I'm not sure people understand how important field position is in the playoffs," said Koutouvides, an eight-year veteran. "It's a huge part of the game, but I think a lot of people underestimate it because the glory comes in scoring touchdowns and big hits on defense."

To read the piece, CLICK HERE.