Patriots

With performance vs. Chargers, Olszewski moves atop an NFL leaderboard

Patriots

Gunner Olszewski's remarkable rise for the New England Patriots has taken him to some all-time heights.

The former NCAA Division II cornerback, who was First Team All-Pro as punt returner in 2020, moved atop the leaderboard for average yards per punt return Sunday among players with at least 50 returns in the Super Bowl era.

Olszewski returned four punts for 80 yards in New England's 27-24 win over the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday, with a long of 27 yards. The 24-year-old Olszewski became the first Patriots player to return three punts for at least 20 yards in the same game since Troy Brown accomplished the feat in 2000.

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It's the second straight season in which Olszewski has had a productive outing at SoFi Stadium. In 2020, he had a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown -- the lone score of his career -- in New England's 45-0 win over the Chargers.

Entering play Sunday, Olszewski was one of seven players in the league averaging more than 10 yards per punt return (11.1). He's now up to 17.8 yards per return after Sunday's showing, which leads the NFL in 2021 a year after he led the league with 17.3 yards per return.

Olszewski still hasn't caught on much on offense, with just one catch for 22 yards this season, but so long as he keeps producing as a punt returner, he can continue to play a pivotal role for a Patriots team that's suddenly in the thick of the playoff race