There are no moral victories in football, and losses rarely come with a silver lining, but there was one performance during Sunday’s 13-6 to the Cincinnati Bengals that the New England Patriots can feel good about: that of rookie punter Ryan Allen, who, at the very least, gave his team a chance to control field position.
Allen managed four consecutive punts within the Bengals’ 10-yard line, putting their offense in a difficult situation and setting up his own defense with a chance to capitalize.
Ultimately, the Patriots' offense was unable to put the ball in the end zone, but the punt team, led by Allen, earned praise from head coach Bill Belichick a day after the fact.
“I thought our punt team overall gave us good field position, really all day,” he said during a Monday conference call. “The plus-50 punting was good. I think it was five [punts] inside the 20 and three inside the 10. Then a couple times we were backed up, we had good coverage there as well. The punting game and the field position on that end of it was good.”
Allen has averaged 40.6 net yards in the early goings of the season, but Sunday’s strong effort was a testament that punting on a short field (which limits opportunities for a high net average) is just as important.
Better to receive?
On another special teams note, Belichick decided to receive after winning the opening coin toss. Sunday marked the first time all season that the Patriots had won their coin toss, and the first time in a while (perhaps a few seasons) that Belichick decided to receive.
His recent trend has been to defer to the second half. Asked about the decision, Belichick offered the following:
“Those are the kind of things we talk about every week,” he said. “There are a number of things that are part of the conversation, the consideration. I would say there were a number of factors. In the end, we felt like taking the ball at that point was the better thing to do. I wouldn’t say it was any one big overriding [factor], but just the combination of all the circumstances surrounding the game. When we put it all together, we felt like that was the best thing to do.”
Just a couple of thoughts on what might have led to the decision: the desire to start fast, something Tom Brady talked about leading up to the Atlanta game, or, perhaps, the weather. The forecast for Sunday was unpredictable (as was evidenced during a fourth quarter rain storm), and perhaps Belichick wanted to give his offense the most opportunities when the skies were clear and the sun was shining, as was the case when kickoff took place.