FOXBORO, Mass. — Ryan Allen had the punter equivalent of a highlight-reel touchdown catch during the final minute of Sunday’s New England Patriots-Houston Texans game.
With 51 seconds remaining and the Patriots leading by seven, Allen boomed a punt that traveled 53 yards in the air, took a high bounce at the 2-yard line and dropped into the waiting arms of gunner Jonathan Jones, who downed it inside the 1.
It was, in a word, perfect.
“(That was) as good as it gets, honestly,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “As good as it gets.”
Allen’s dagger forced the Texans to travel 99 yards in 43 seconds for a potential game-tying touchdown. They fell well short, with Jason McCourty swatting away a Deshaun Watson Hail Mary attempt near New England’s 10-yard line to seal a 27-20 victory for the Patriots.
“The ball is oddly shaped, so it’ll do funky things sometimes when it hits,” Allen said after the game. “So it is nice sometimes to have it bounce the way you want it to. But situationally, I felt like we handled that well and executed that efficiently. … It’s good to be working with a group of guys who take it seriously and put a huge importance on that phase of the game.”
In a way, the punt was a moment of vindication for Allen, who had to beat out undrafted rookie Corey Bojorquez this summer to keep his spot on the 53-man roster. (He did so with relative ease, as Bojorquez didn’t play a single snap during the preseason.) But Allen simply viewed it as a win for the entire punt team.
“Honestly and truly, it feels good to execute that play efficiently and feel like you’re in control and it’s not (a situation where) they’re bringing a lot of pressure and you’re just trying to survive the play rather than going out there and working efficiently and executing at that higher rate,” he said. “That feels better than having it hit and bounce on the 1 with enough time to have Jon Jones run down there and down it like that.
“That’s great, and it’s nice, but just being able to feel like we were in control of that is a good thing, I think, at the end of the day.”
Jones also had a strong day on defense, allowing zero receptions on three targets and tallying two pass breakups as New England’s slot cornerback.
“Jonathan is growing in his journey as a defensive player, but there is no taking plays off (on special teams),” said Allen, who averaged 48.6 yards per punt on six attempts. “And I can look over there and know that I’ve got two guys (in Jones and fellow gunner Slater) that are going after every single play on special teams. There are no plays off. It’s good to be able to go to work every day and know that the 10 other guys that you’re out on the field with, it’s important to them, (too).”
The Patriots’ special teams units weren’t immune to mistakes Sunday, though. They struggled in kickoff coverage, allowing Tyler Ervin to average 31.2 yards per return, and Riley McCarron muffed a punt late in the fourth quarter, setting up a Texans touchdown.
McCarron lamented his miscue after the game, calling it a “stupid play.”
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images