Matthew Slater

How Patriots' attention to detail helped Matthew Slater win AFC Special Teams Player of the Week

How Patriots' attention to detail helped Matthew Slater win AFC Special Teams Player of the Week

When Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said special teams is "100 percent coaching," he wasn't kidding.

One of the New England Patriots' most important plays in Sunday's 16-9 win over the Cowboys was Matthew Slater's blocked punt in the first quarter, which led to the only touchdown of the game.

Slater made a great individual effort on the play, but as usual, the Patriots also put him in position to succeed by paying attention to every last detail -- including the weather.

Let Bill Belichick explain in his film breakdown of the blocked punt, which starts at the 1:43 mark of the video below:

The first thing Belichick noted was the wind, which was blowing toward the near sideline. Cowboys punter Chris Jones also is left-footed, meaning there's a good chance he'd punt with the wind toward the near sideline.

Guess where Slater and the Patriots' punt block unit applied the most pressure? Toward the near sideline.

"You can see the flags blowing on the top of the upright," Belichick explained. "So, the wind is kind of coming across the field but a little bit into the face of the punter. The punter is going to punt this way to try to use the wind that he can get there."

That's exactly what happened, as the Patriots "stretched" Dallas' protection by sending three rushers off the edge to Jones' left side. Jonathan Jones' hard rush from the outside position created a small gap for Slater, who knifed through to block the punt.

New England's execution paid off for Slater who was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday for the first time in his career.

That's the second week in a row a Patriots player has won the Special Teams award, as punter Jake Bailey won in Week 11.

It's also the second consecutive week Belichick's special teams unit has been a difference-maker in a low-scoring victory, and another sign that attention to all phases of the game can help balance out offensive deficiencies.

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Patriots moving on from upsetting loss to Ravens, focused on improving

Patriots moving on from upsetting loss to Ravens, focused on improving

The New England Patriots don't take losses lightly, and they're moving on from Sunday's upsetting loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

As the Pats head into the bye week with an 8-1 record, they're already looking forward to their matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles -- not dwelling in the past. 

“You’ve got to be able to turn the page," Patriots elite special teamer Matthew Slater said according to MassLive's Matt Vautour. "You’ve gotta try to learn from your mistakes and realize that we’re still in good position to be competitive down the stretch. But we’re going to have to do a lot of things better starting tomorrow.

“Good mood. We’ve got a lot to be thankful for. We’ve been pretty decent, above average, I think, over the course of the season thus far. So there’s no reason for anyone in here to be in the tank. Let’s just take advantage of the opportunity that we have to improve this week, try to get healthy and hopefully come back against Philly and play a little better than we did on Sunday night."

New England was long thought to be a team that could go undefeated through the 2019-20 campaign. While those hopes are shattered, they want to be more productive following their bye week. 

“I think as competitors, that taste will linger until we can get back on the football field and at least have a better outing than we did on Sunday," Slater said. "I think that’s part of what makes this team great. We have a lot of great competitors that want to do everything perfect all the time. But the reality is this is the NFL, and that’s not going to happen. So it’s unfortunate that we’re going to have to sit on it for two weeks, but we’ve got to try to maximize the time, be productive with it and try to come out and play better next time.”

The Patriots normally are good at bouncing back following a disappointing loss, but while the Eagles are struggling at 5-4, they're still no joke. New England will have its hands full come Nov. 17, but are looking forward to the challenge ahead. 

Tom Brady's team will practice Wednesday then have the rest of the week off before beginning to prepare for the Eagles on Monday. 

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Matthew Slater: Thursday games 'don’t fit under the umbrella of player safety'

Matthew Slater: Thursday games 'don’t fit under the umbrella of player safety'

FOXBORO, Mass. -- The New England Patriots and New York Giants both must deal with the unenviable position of having a Thursday night game just a few days after playing on a Sunday afternoon.

These players have less time to study and watch film on their Week 6 opponent, but the most challenging aspect of the quick turnaround is preparing physically for another hard-fought game so soon after the previous matchup.

It's a dynamic that Patriots captain Matthew Slater doesn't endorse from a player safety perspective.

"You could be 22 years old -- it's (still) tough. Player safety, player health? This doesn't fit into that as far as I'm concerned," Slater said after Tuesday's practice.

"I know we've had a lot of discussions about it as a union. I know it's a good product as far as the consumers are concerned, and the fans enjoy these Thursday night products. But I think when you talk about the rigors of playing in an NFL game, and then what it takes to recover and be able to do it again the following week, to do a Sunday-to-Thursday turnaround is tough. It doesn't fit under the umbrella of player safety as far as I'm concerned. But you guys know that -- I've said that every year."

The Patriots traveled down to Tampa Bay to play the Buccaneers on Thursday night a few years ago, but this week's game will be played at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. How much of an advantage do the Patriots have (outside of the normal benefits of being at home) in playing at their own stadium in this Thursday night scenario?

"It certainly gives you a couple extra hours of rest," Slater said. You get on a plane and there's dehydration, joints swelling up or what have you. I think it's nicer to play these games at home when you have the opportunity to do so. But I think it's equally challenging for both teams."

Thursday's game will be the Patriots' third in 12 days. The good news for the Patriots is they'll have plenty of time after playing the Giants to rest and recover for their Week 7 matchup. New England's next game isn't until Monday night in New York versus the rival Jets.

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