2018 AFC Playoffs

Analysis: Finding a way to slow Chargers’ returner Desmond King absolutely vital for Patriots’ special teamers

[get_snippet] [theme-my-login show_title=0]
(Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Patrick Chung once told me special teams was basically a “40-yard fistfight.” If that’s the case, given the slim margin for error when it comes to this postseason, the Patriots’ special teamers really need to be ready to throw down come Sunday against the Chargers.

The playoffs are just a week old, and already, we’ve seen special teams impact multiple games: Cody Parkey missing a potential game-winner in Chicago. Sebastian Janikowski’s hamstring injury playing a role in Seattle’s loss to Dallas. Kicker Michael Badgley and returner Desmond King having a starring role in Los Angeles’ win over Baltimore.

The Patriots’ special teamers have been up and down all year — coverage units have struggled at times, and they’ve taken some ill-timed penalties. But they’ve also been able to get some dynamite performances from the likes of All-Pro returner Cordarrelle Patterson, Albert McClellan (who has gotten his hands on multiple punt attempts) and Matthew Slater, who continues his peerless work as a gunner.

Because of those positives, Slater says he feels confident about the state of New England’s special teams as they stand on the cusp of another postseason.

“There’s a lot of belief in the men that are going to be taking that field together,” Slater said of the special teamers.

How do they match up with Los Angeles?