Nate Ebner and Matthew Slater break down the Patriots’ quest for particular groups innovation


An inside have a look at New England’s particular groups unit with their “Batman and Robin” of the 2010s.

Nate Ebner
Patriots particular teamer Nate Ebner blocked a punt from Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt in 2019. Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe
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If there’s something that Brenden Schooler’s field-goal block in opposition to the Dolphins confirmed, it’s that there’s nonetheless a spirit of innovation amongst the Patriots’ special-teams unit.

Whether or not it’s placing a participant in movement on a block try, or the way in which they walled off the Jets’ protection group on Marcus Jones’s game-winning punt return final 12 months, the Patriots have proven flashes of with the ability to mix timing, execution, and creativeness.

“I inform folks that generally the perfect concepts present up at 1 o’clock within the morning once you’re simply drawing stuff and doodling,” particular groups coach Cam Achord stated. “You attempt to suppose exterior the field and have as many minds in there eager about it and throwing stuff in opposition to the wall.

“That’s why we research different league tape and that’s why we research school tape. You’re at all times on the lookout for someone who has completed one thing completely different.”

Schooler stated he by no means noticed a play fairly just like the one he executed on Sunday. Matthew Slater, who has performed in additional Patriots video games than anybody apart from Tom Brady, echoed these feedback.

The Patriots have used a person in movement on a punt block earlier than, equivalent to Jonathan Jones’s block in opposition to the Colts final 12 months, however doing it on a field-goal try was a brand new wrinkle.

“We’re on the lookout for weaknesses that we will take benefits, and trying to put guys on our group with sure ability units in place to make performs,” Slater stated. “That’s one thing that we’ve at all times completed. The opposite evening was clearly the primary of its type from what I’ve seen. However clearly, we’re attempting to do this every week.”

The management dynamic

With the intention to innovate, you’ve acquired to have the management to drag it off. Throughout the 2010s, the Patriots had what Slater and Nate Ebner known as a good-cop, bad-cop management dynamic between the 2.

“We had been Batman and Robin,” Ebner stated. “He was the religious man, I used to be the technical man and I believe we labored very well collectively. He was the great cop, and I used to be the dangerous cop. He made me higher and I’d wish to suppose I made him a bit of higher too.”

The variations of their personalities complemented one another and allowed them to coexist and lead collectively, Slater stated.

“I’m a bit of bit extra of a SoCal, easygoing man, and he was extra of a no-nonsense kind of man,” Slater stated. “I believe we actually steadiness one another out. When somebody wanted to step up and bark and get on guys, Nate was the man to do this. When somebody wanted to be cherished up a bit of bit, and wanted somebody to speak to, I supplied that.”

Slater joked that he needed to tackle extra of the “dangerous cop” function after Ebner left, however talked about long-snapper Joe Cardona as a non-nonsense voice within the locker room nowadays.

“Now that I’m older, I’ve gotten a bit of bit extra ornery in my outdated age,” Slater stated with fun. “However I believe the one man we don’t discuss quite a bit by way of management is Joe Cardona. I believe he brings a no-nonsense management type, clearly together with his background and the experiences he’s had right here. He has the respect of all people on this locker room.”

Some extent of emphasis from the coaches

Ebner and assistant head coach Joe Decide each joined the Patriots in 2012. New England drafted Ebner within the sixth spherical and employed Decide as particular groups coordinator.

Ebner left the Patriots to play for the Giants after Decide was employed as head coach in 2020.

“One factor I’ll say about Joe, he was at all times pushing to do one thing completely different,” Ebner stated. “That innovation was enormous in serving to us get higher 12 months, after 12 months, after 12 months. Generally there’d be these conversations like ‘Hey guys, I believe we should always do that, this, and this’. Matt [Slater] could be like ‘sure, I see how you can say that.’ And I’d should be like ‘Matt, do you actually suppose we will do this?’ I’d at all times should be the dangerous man.

“However, it was good that we had such an open relationship with Joe,” Ebner continued. “Joe might toss something out and I might say, ‘Joe, I don’t suppose so.’ I do know it sounds good, however once you’re on the market and issues are flying it’s completely different. We had that open relationship the place we might speak freely as a result of we revered one another and knew we had been attempting to push the needle and make the group nearly as good because it could possibly be and due to that we got here up with a whole lot of good performs that we applied.”

Patriots head coach Invoice Belichick acquired his begin teaching particular groups within the Nineteen Seventies, and he hasn’t forgotten in regards to the significance of that side of the sport.

It’s nonetheless a giant a part of what he teaches.

“Look, one factor we’re at all times attempting to do right here is create an edge within the kicking sport. I don’t suppose that’s a thriller,” Slater stated. “Since coach [Belichick] has been right here, that’s been a degree of emphasis for him.”