Entering Week 12’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, the New England Patriots already had two blocked punts on their season-long résumé: J.C. Jackson got his hands on one in Week 4 against the Buffalo Bills; Brandon Bolden blocked another one two weeks later against the New York Giants. Both times, the Patriots were able to return the kick for a touchdown with Matthew Slater and Chase Winovich both finding the end zone following the blocks.
Slater also was involved in another punt block versus Dallas. While it was not returned for a score, him crashing through the left side of the line and getting a hand on Chris Jones’ kick allowed the Patriots to score the game’s first and only touchdown: two plays after the block that was recovered by Nate Ebner at the Cowboys’ 12-yard line, Tom Brady connected with rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry to give New England a 7-0 lead.
As a result of his punt block — arguably the biggest play of the Patriots’ 13-9 victory against Dallas — the 33-year-old was announced by the league as the AFC’s Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday. Despite consistently being among the NFL’s best kicking game players and earning seven Pro Bowl and four first-team All-Pro nominations over the course of his 12-year career, the award is the first of its kind earned by Slater.
In total, the organization has now been honored six times in 2019. In addition to Slater’s award, New England also took home the trophies for the conference’s Special Teams Player in Week 3 and Week 11 (punter Jake Bailey), AFC Defensive Player of Week 4 (linebacker Kyle Van Noy) and for Defensive Player of the Month in both September (safety Devin McCourty) and October (cornerback Stephon Gilmore).
Speaking of Gilmore: despite his tremendous performance against Cowboys number one wide receiver Amari Cooper — he held him without a catch and registered an interception — he lost the trophy to the Cleveland Browns’ Joe Schobert. During his team’s game against the Miami Dolphins, Schobert registered two interceptions off quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.