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:
BB breaks down Slate’s blocked punt, Gilmore’s pick & more key plays from Sunday’s W. pic.twitter.com/RRVOnSqAXy— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 27, 2019
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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