- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
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Leading up to a Week 15 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick noted the 49ers' strong special teams and made mention of the fact that they were the No. 1 ranked unit during the previous season.
The rankings which Belichick was referring to were those compiled by Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin, who for many years has graded every NFL team based on 22 special teams categories to produce his list. Categories include kickoff returns, punt returns, kickoff coverage, punt coverage, net punting, field goals made etc.
Gosselin recently published his list for the 2012 season, and the Patriots checked in at 13th overall (interestingly, the 49ers dropped down to 15th). The list includes each of the categories that makes up his criteria, and the team that fared the best and worst in that category during the 2012 season.
The Patriots did not finish atop any of Gosselin's categories, but did allow the highest opponent punt average at 50.3 yards per punt. That figure was offset by the fact that the Patriots finished fifth in the league in punt return average at 12.0 yards per return.
The special teams were mostly reliable throughout the 2012 season for the Patriots, with highlights including a kickoff return for a touchdown by Devin McCourty and two special teams touchdowns by Julian Edelman. Other more forgettable plays include a blocked punt early in the season, as well as a near kickoff return for a touchdown allowed to open the AFC divisional round against the Houston Texans.
To see Gosselin's rankings in their entirety, click HERE (registration required).