Yet Kyle Arrington's toe-tapping fumble recovery after a muffed punt early in the second quarter was one of those good moments. It briefly energized the New England sideline and set up the Patriots' initial score that cut the deficit to 24-7.
The fumble recovery put an exclamation point on Arrington's first season with the Patriots, and he called it the highlight to this point of his young professional career. He also heard plenty about the sideline scoop during the offseason, although his friends weren?t so gracious about the tight ruling on the field.
"Friends back home say it's a little bit controversial," Arrington said with a laugh. "I tell them whatever is in the record books, that?s what I'm going to go with."
Arrington, who was NESN.com's Patriots Special Teams Player of the Year, made his mark as a special teams juggernaut in 2009 despite an abbreviated stint with the Pats. He began the year on Tampa Bay's practice squad but was waived in September. The Patriots signed him to their practice squad Sept. 21, and he was promoted to the active roster Nov. 8.
Arrington played in nine games, but he led the Patriots with 12 solo tackles on special teams (13.5 percent of the team's 89 solo stops all year long, and 24.5 percent of the 49 solo stops during the Pats' final nine games). He also had 17 total tackles on special teams, which was second on the Patriots.
"When it comes to special teams," Arrington said, "whatever situation they put me in, I try to be the best at it."
Arrington is more than happy to have a role on special teams, and quite frankly, he's ecstatic for the chance to build off of last season's momentum, especially after his first taste of on-field NFL action.
He hopes, though, to some day take the next step and contribute on the defensive side of the ball. The Hofstra product has been an underdog since going undrafted in 2008. The cornerback started his rookie season on Philadelphia's practice squad before getting released and being picked up by Tampa Bay, where he resided for a year.
So, after finally getting his chance to contribute with the Patriots and showing his worth, it's only natural to wonder what's next once he gets more and more opportunities. Arrington has been excited to get plenty of reps with the first and second defensive units during the Patriots' offseason practices, and he admits it's still a learning process.
"Every day, try to work on one thing to better myself, to help the team out," Arrington said. "Whatever I can do to help the team win, that?s what I'm here for. I just come in every day like, 'What can I work on?' Watch film, get in the playbook every day. I'm still learning, still have some things to work on, obviously, so I'm just trying to get better every day as a player."
Arrington is fast, physical and, obviously, a strong tackler, so he's got that part of the game down. From there, though, he knows he's got to have a better understanding of the game's mental aspect — learning the playbook, being more demonstrative on the field and knowing how to make the play calls rather than listening for them.
It's also a big advantage for him to go through New England's offseason camps and start from the beginning. After having to learn two different systems in 2009, it was pretty impressive to see him waltz into a locker room at midseason and make such an impact.
"I can't even put it into words really," Arrington said about how helpful it is to start the season with the Patriots. "It's extremely important. I'm just trying to take full advantage of it."
Still, Arrington will be fighting for a roster spot. The Patriots have invested a good amount in cornerbacks Leigh Bodden, Darius Butler, Devin McCourty, Jonathan Wilhite and Terrence Wheatley. It's no secret, however, how much New England head coach Bill Belichick values players who can perform on special teams, and Arrington is a force as a gunner on punt coverage and then in kickoff coverage.
Arrington believes New England is the right spot for him in that regard, and he's ready and willing to keep contributing in the same facet. At some point, though, Arrington hopes he can be a contributor in two phases of the game.
"I have more of a sense of want and belonging [in New England]," Arrington said. "What I did last year, I'm not trying to say I did anything, but just to finally get on the field, get a stepping stone out there. I'm definitely looking forward to this upcoming season.
"I was all right on special teams. That?s kind of what I was known for initially, but with the fresh start this year, a new system, new scheme, a fresh start is what I needed. Hopefully, you'll see me out there on defense, too."