Special teams warnings ring true

September, 16, 2012
9/16/12
6:33
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When Arizona Cardinals linebacker Quentin Groves blocked a punt attempt by Zoltan Mesko in the end zone in the third quarter of Sunday's game, count New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick among those who weren't surprised by the play.

[+] EnlargeMesko-Groves
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesZoltan Mesko had his punt from the end zone blocked, which resulted in a quick Cardinals touchdown a few plays later.
After all, Belichick had warned twice earlier in the week about Arizona's special teams unit, coached by his former assistant, Kevin Spencer.

"They’re a very good special teams unit that we just have to worry about every time they come out on the field," Belichick said. "They block a lot of kicks. Every play is a potential game-changing play on special teams. This will be a huge challenge for us in the kicking game – protecting the kickers and covering the kicks."

The blocked punt set-up a 2-yard touchdown pass to Andre Roberts, which turned the tide of New England's stunning home opener loss on Sunday.

"I concentrate on the ball. There's things that I can control -- the punting part -- and there's things that I can't (control)," Mesko said. "But I felt like the operation, the rhythm went alright. Maybe the protection, I believe on the left side, broke down."

Rookie safety Nate Ebner was part of that left side protection, and allowed Groves to get to Mesko in the end zone.

"It's kind of like a peripheral thing, where you have to have the trust in your teammates to get (the defender) out of the way, just like (quarterback) Tom (Brady) has to wait until the last second sometimes," Mesko said. "It just happened that way."

The Cardinals clearly take pride in their ability to block kicks, and at least two players believed their success in that area played a role in Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski's miss that sealed an Arizona victory.

"I think we put a lot of pressure on a lot of teams with our field goal block team -- with me coming off the edge and collapsing the middle, we create a lot of havoc for a lot of teams," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "I think (Gostkowski) was a little scared of us, honestly, that is why he pushed it left."

"We have a really good field goal block team and I think that may have been in the back of his mind," receiver Andre Roberts said. "You never know."

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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