Often unspoken about but in reality, just as important as the offense and defense, is the special teams phase of the game. Special teams (and that entails punts, kicks, field-goals, extra points and the coverage of all that) is the one area of the game that is you are really off, then it's going to throw off every area. It can literally cost you a game, no mater how good your offense or defense are playing!
The San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens found that out first hand in the Conference Championships as they each had special team breakdowns that cost them a trip to the Super Bowl. For the 49ers, it was two returns that were fumbled, setting the Giants up for the tieing and winning scores. For the Ravens, it was a missed 32 yard field-goal that would have sent the game into overtime.
Just like that, with a fumble for one and a shanked field-goal for another, an entire season worth of hard work is just done with goals unreached.
Special teams, field goals and extra points aside, dictates to a large degree the success of both an offense and a defense. It all comes down to field position. If you have great special teams, you can dictate it and if your suck, well, it's going to be a long game.
Both the New England Patriots and the New York Giants field solid special teams units that can get the job done. The Giants showed first hand what their can do in the win over the 49ers. Recovering two fumbles and nailing the game winning field-goal in overtime to return them to the big game.
The Patriots, on the other hand, are also pretty god in that area. Stephen Gostkowski, the kicker for the Pats, has shown time and time again a strong leg and an accuracy that is reliable.
Since Super Bowl XLVI is being played in a dome, expect the best out of both teams kicking games. If any edge is going to be found here between these two similar teams in this regard, then it will be found on who covers the returns the best.
The Giants have proven their worth in this area thus far this postseason, the Patriots haven’t.
Special Teams Edge: Giants
New England Patriots, Stephen Gostkowski: Went 28 for 33 in the regular season and a perfect 4 for 4 this postseason. Has made all 67 extra point attempts this season.
NY Giants, Lawrence Tynes: Was 19-24 in the regular season and 6 for 8 in the postseason. Made all 52 extra point attempts this season.
NY Giants, Steve Weatherford: Averaged 45 yards on 82 punts in the regular season, placing 30% within the 20 yards line. Is averaging 46 yards on 16 punts in the postseason.
New England Patriots, Zoltan Mesko: Averaged 46 yards on 57 punts in the regular season, placing 42% inside the 20 yard line. Is averaging 43 yards on 4 punts this postseason.
This part of the game is an easy one to rate because the Patriots are known to pull rabbits out of their hats at the craziest of times. They will have Brady do a punt or line up a defensive linebacker at tight end, things that aren't normally seen across the league. A lot of that is because of Bill Belichick who will stop at nothing to get an edge. Heck, I'm sure he'd even send Brady out there in a deress if it would get an extra yard!
The Giants, on the other hand, aren't quite as flashy in this area, They are more straight laced, a direct result of the personality of Tom Coughlin, their coach.
Trickery Edge: Patriots.
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