It’s official: The New England Patriots just had their worst season on special teams in the Bill Belichick era.
You could’ve made that case before Week 18 (we did), as the Patriots through 17 weeks ranked 27th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, which measures a unit’s overall efficiency relative to other teams. It basically functions as football’s version of baseball’s wins-above-replacement stat.
New England’s special teams finished 18th in DVOA last season, setting a new low for Belichick’s tenure as head coach. In the previous 21 seasons, the Patriots never finished lower than 16th while finishing top 10 a stunning 16 times.
Well, after allowing two kickoff return touchdowns in Sunday’s season-ending road loss to the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots cemented their status as this season’s lowest-ranking special teams unit in terms of DVOA, according to Football Outsiders editor-in-chief Aaron Schatz , who created the metric.
But it wasn’t just about the two return touchdowns.
New England also received two rough kickoff returns from Marcus Jones, squibbed a kickoff out of bounds (because it was afraid of its own kickoff coverage) and watched Michael Palardy shank yet another bad punt. It was a fitting end for the group, albeit a disappointing one for longtime special teams captain Matthew Slater, who might retire during the offseason.
Ultimately, it’s difficult to envision Cam Achord returning as the Patriots’ special teams coordinator next season.