The New England Patriots’ kick return game has had more downs than ups over the first 10 weeks of the season, but it has recently come to life. Following a solid performance versus the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12, the unit delivered its best performance during the Patriots’ 45-0 beatdown of the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 13.
While plenty of players and coordinator Cam Achord deserve special mention, one name stands out in particular: Gunner Olszewski.
The second-year wide receiver and return man had the most prolific game of his career versus the Chargers. Besides scoring a 38-yard receiving touchdown in the fourth quarter to finalize the score, he also ran back three punts: his first went for 70 yards and a touchdown, with the others covering 14 and 61 yards, respectively. Olszewski was spectacular all day long, and now has been recognized by the NFL for his outing.
As was announced on Wednesday morning, the 24-year-old has been named the AFC’s Special Teams Player of the Week — the first time in his young career that he has earned the honor.
“It feels good. All the work you put in is paying off — staying late, getting there early. It feels good, that’s the best way I can put it,” Olszewski said in the aftermath of his game against the Chargers.
Olszewski is the second Patriot to be named an AFC Player of the Week this season: kicker Nick Folk won the award for special teams after kicking game-winning field goals from 50+ yards out in both Week 9 against the New York Jets and Week 12 versus the Arizona Cardinals. No offensive or defensive members of the team have earned a similar honor so far this season.
“Happy for Gunner, but he got a lot of help on those plays as well,” said Patriots head coach Belichick during his postgame press conference. “He did a good job on finishing the runs and making some guys miss. ... His career is not the classic way of an NFL career, given where he came from, but happy for the success that he’s had. Gunner’s worked extremely hard and overcame a lot. He’s not a big guy, but he has a big heart and he plays hard.”