Special teams: Ebner recovers

November, 12, 2012
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots special teams units had a good day Sunday against the Bills.

Going up against the NFL's No. 1-rated punt return unit, the Patriots had a good strategy: Don't punt. Zoltan Mesko was called upon just twice in the game, which reflects the complementary nature of football and how the offense contributed in this area.

And on kickoff returns, Stephen Gostkowski's strong leg was a weapon that limited exposure to potentially explosive plays (6 touchbacks on 8 kickoffs).

When looking closer at the personnel on the "Big 4" units, one other notable is the return of rookie Nate Ebner to a prominent role. Ebner, of course, was responsible for a blocked punt in the Week 2 loss to the Cardinals and saw his special teams responsibilities cut back after that performance.

Some time has passed and now Ebner is one of the few Patriots showing up on all four units (based on initial groups on the field):

Four units
S Nate Ebner
LB Niko Koutouvides
LB Mike Rivera
LB Jeff Tarpinian

Three units
WR Julian Edelman
WR Matthew Slater

Two units
CB Kyle Arrington
CB Marquice Cole
TE Michael Hoomanawanui
S Derrick Martin
DB Devin McCourty
RB Shane Vereen
S Tavon Wilson
RB Danny Woodhead

EXTRA POINTS: Rookie defensive end Justin Francis broke through and nearly blocked one punt. The punt return unit is the lone group on which Francis -- who is carving out a niche as a situational pass-rusher and punt rusher -- plays. ... Veteran Derrick Martin had the team's lone special teams tackle.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter



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