FOXBORO - Bill Belichick had high praise for the league's best punter Johnny Hekker whose critical successful fake punt helped change the tide in the NFC Championship Game against the New Orleans Saints. The Saints led 13-0 and the Rams had to punt. Hekker successfully completed a pass that gave the Rams a first down, which led to their first score of the game. Belichick recognized on Thursday that Hekker is likely the most influential punter in football.
"He’s a weapon on the field. He can change field position and he’s a good situational punter and obviously he’s very athletic. You have to respect his ability to handle the ball. I think the main thing when you sent your punt return team out there is you want to make sure you get the ball at the end of the play. That’s not always that difficult but with these guys it’s pretty challenging. As I said, they’re all weapons. Zuerlein’s a weapon, Hekker’s a weapon. They do a good job in the return game," Belichick said.
The Rams special teams has been impressive this season. Kicker Greg Zurlein hit two long fields against the Saints including a game-tying (48-yard) and game-winning field goal (57-yard). Given that the Super Bowl will be played in a dome, Zurlein should easily be able to hit kicks of longer than 50 yards. The Rams also stripped then Packers kick returner Ty Montgomery in a game earlier this year that prevented Aaron Rodgers from having a chance to take the Green Bay Packers down the field.
Bill Belichick has made special teams an emphasis in New England. It is rare that a Pats opponent has a special teams advantage, but this week that might be the case.