The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans, 41-28, Sunday in the divisional round of the playoffs. But the game would not have been that close if not for New England's poor kickoff coverage.
Houston had 230 kickoff return yards against the Patriots, which included a 94-yard return to start the game. The hidden yards and winning in the third phase made the final margin respectable.
Despite a poor performance Sunday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick defended his kickoff coverage during his Monday conference call with the media.
"Overall our kickoff coverage this year has been one of the best things we’ve done all year. We’re right at the top of the league in kickoff coverage," Belichick explained. "We didn’t have a good play in the San Francisco game and then we had three bad plays yesterday. But overall that’s been probably as consistent as anything we’ve done as a football team for the entire season."
The Patriots cannot give up this many yards on special teams in their upcoming game against the Baltimore Ravens. The AFC Championship Game is expected to be more competitive, and any big returns could be the difference if it's a close game.