<
>

Special teams: Ebner recovers

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots special teams units had a good day Sunday against the Bills.

Going up against the NFL's No. 1-rated punt return unit, the Patriots had a good strategy: Don't punt. Zoltan Mesko was called upon just twice in the game, which reflects the complementary nature of football and how the offense contributed in this area.

And on kickoff returns, Stephen Gostkowski's strong leg was a weapon that limited exposure to potentially explosive plays (6 touchbacks on 8 kickoffs).

When looking closer at the personnel on the "Big 4" units, one other notable is the return of rookie Nate Ebner to a prominent role. Ebner, of course, was responsible for a blocked punt in the Week 2 loss to the Cardinals and saw his special teams responsibilities cut back after that performance.

Some time has passed and now Ebner is one of the few Patriots showing up on all four units (based on initial groups on the field):

Four units

S Nate Ebner

LB Niko Koutouvides

LB Mike Rivera

LB Jeff Tarpinian

Three units

WR Julian Edelman

WR Matthew Slater

Two units

CB Kyle Arrington

CB Marquice Cole

TE Michael Hoomanawanui

S Derrick Martin

DB Devin McCourty

RB Shane Vereen

S Tavon Wilson

RB Danny Woodhead

EXTRA POINTS: Rookie defensive end Justin Francis broke through and nearly blocked one punt. The punt return unit is the lone group on which Francis -- who is carving out a niche as a situational pass-rusher and punt rusher -- plays. ... Veteran Derrick Martin had the team's lone special teams tackle.