During Bill Belichick’s news conference following Sunday’s win over the New York Jets, one of the first players he singled out was his punter, Ryan Allen.
Allen had perhaps his best game of the season in New England’s 27-13 victory, employing pinpoint accuracy with his directional punts to limit dangerous Jets return man Andre Roberts to 1 total return yard.
Roberts had entered the game as the NFL’s most productive punt returner, averaging more than 16 yards per return.
“Ryan did a fabulous job with punting the ball,” Belichick said when asked about Allen’s performance during an appearance Monday on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni and Fauria.” “You never expect the ball to be 1 yard out of bounds. You’d like to have it more on one part of the field than another, not right down the middle where you give the returner all the space. … But he gave us great kicks that were right on the sideline for 46, 48, 50 yards, whatever it was, three times.”
Allen’s first punt of the game bounced at the 1-yard line before landing in the end zone, with gunner Matthew Slater arriving a half-second too late to down it. His final three — including one from the end zone and another from inside his own 5 — all landed directly on or inches inside the sideline, traveling 51, 47 and 46 yards.
“If the ball goes there,” Belichick said, “you and I could cover them.”
The Patriots have struggled with punt and kick coverage throughout the season, entering Sunday ranked 31st in the former and 29th in the latter. As Slater said Monday, “when Ryan punts like he did (Sunday), he makes everyone’s job easier,”
“The direction he got on the ball, the way the operation was (Sunday) — so smooth — it really makes everyone’s job easier,” Slater continued. “And his approach is the same each and every week. I can’t emphasize that enough, and it’s something that we truly can’t take for granted. His steady presence, the mentality, the attitude that he brings, it’s much appreciated by all the guys in that locker room. We’re fortunate to have a guy like that in that position.”
Members of the Patriots’ defense also appreciated Allen’s effort.
“He did a really good job,” cornerback Jason McCourty said. “For us on the sideline, we’re waiting to go out there on defense, and you keep seeing the ball punted all the way to the sideline. We knew Roberts as a returner how dangerous he was on the punts and kickoffs, so that was huge for us special teams-wise, (Allen) just flipping the field.
“Especially early on in the game, it was a big field-position game of just going back and forth, defenses playing well, not putting up a ton of points, so that was huge for us in limiting their return game and limiting their big plays.”
Thumbnail photo via Scott R. Galvin/USA TODAY Sports Images