High-Yield Returns: Patriots’ special teams smother second straight foe

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Just how far can Bill Belichick’s hefty, oft-maligned investment in special teams carry the New England Patriots? If the last two weeks, a pair of desperately-needed wins to move this football team to 6-6, are any indication, the answer might just be January and, more amazingly, the NFL playoffs.

Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, New England scored 14 points in the kicking game – it felt like 40 – carving up the Chargers in the most embarrassing ways possible. Let’s be honest. Mike Badgely’s 46-yard field-goal attempt that drifted wide right late in the first quarter was the highlight of the Chargers’ special teams' day — a unit that saw coordinator George Stewart demoted from the coordinator spot for Keith Burns and Chris Caminiti last month. From there, things went downhill … fast.

The coaching mismatch expected between Bill Belichick and LA’s Anthony Lynn manifested itself on special teams. No play exemplified the gaping disparity more than Gunner Olszewski’s 70-yard punt return for a touchdown.

It looked like Belichick was pulling the strings like a puppeteer. First,