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Matthew Slater: Special teams must set tone early

Matthew Slater: Special teams must set tone early
matthew-slater-special-teams-must-set-tone-early


With everything on the line for the New England Patriots http://www.nfllionsofficial.com/Cj-Mosley-Jersey in Saturday’s divisional playoff game, every detail of their game figures to be pivotal. Perhaps no area will be more important, though, than special teams. Despite the difference in their regular-season records, the Patriots feel as if they’re evenly matched with their opponent, the Baltimore Ravens. Patriots special-teams captain Matthew Slater said as much, underscoring how he feels it will be important for him and the rest of the special-teams players to get things going on the opening kickoff. “I think if we can go out and set the tone early it’ll be big for us,” Slater said. “We know that they’re going to be ready to go... so we have to match their intensity at home so we come out and start well.” If there’s anyone else Slater feels will be ready to go, it’s Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones. For the majority of his eight seasons in the league, Jones has been among the most dynamic kick returners in the game. During the regular season, Jones ranked second in the league with 978 kickoff return yards, averaging just over 30 yards per return (30.6). He didn’t miss a beat during last week’s wild-card matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers either, amassing 117 yards on five returns. With that in mind, it comes as little surprise that Slater termed Jones “priority No. 1.” “There’s no other combo return in the league like him,” Slater said. “He poses a lot of problems with his size and speed. You look across the board, there are not too many guys like that. Any time he touches the ball we have to have a sense of urgency because he can hit a home run at any time.” While kickoff returning is Jones’ forte, he has Darryl Tapp Youth Jersey also seen a good deal of time on the punt return team this season. In those situations, Jones racked up 275 yards on 30 attempts. Slater said that Jones represents a threat in any situation that he’s on the field. “I think he has a great deal of confidence in his ability to make plays, and rightfully so,” Slater said. “Obviously the other 10 guys out there, when they see you have a guy like this they’re going to go the extra mile to make sure they give him a chance to spring it. They’re aggressive, he’s aggressive, and we’ve got to be ready to counter that.” Having been with the Patriots for seven seasons now, Slater knows all about these types of intense games. With the Ravens and Patriots having met several times in the playoffs in recent memory, Slater said he is looking forward to what Baltimore is sure to bring to the table once again. “It’s a special matchup,” Slater said. “You have two http://www.nfllionsofficial.com/Reggie-Bush-Jersey programs that try to approach this game and play it a certain way. And as a result you get a physical, well-played football game usually when these two teams match up. It’s going to be a battle, it always has been. We’ve got to get ourselves ready for the challenge.”

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